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Lockdown easing may need to be reversed if variant spreads rapidly, says government adviser

independent– The easing of lockdown restrictions may need to be reversed if coronavirus variants spread rapidly, according to a government adviser.

Professor Peter Openshaw said his fellow scientists were “very concerned” after a cluster of cases of the South African Covid-19 variant were found in London.

Some 44 confirmed cases of the variant have been found in Lambeth and Wandsworth, with a further 30 probable cases identified, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.

Surge testing for those who live, work or travel through those areas is being rolled out, while NHS Test and Trace is providing additional testing in an area of Southwark where a case linked to the other cluster has been identified.

Prof Openshaw, a member of the Covid-19 clinical information network, told BBC2’s Newsnight: “A lot of we scientists are very concerned about what’s happening at the moment.

“I think we’re all just hoping that the staged reduction in lockdown is going to be OK. It is being done reasonably cautiously but I think this is not good news.

“If we get rapid spread of the South African or other more resistant variants, it may well be that we are going to have to put the reductions of lockdown into reverse.”

According to government figures, there have been 533 genomically confirmed cases of the South African variant in the UK and another 11 probable cases.

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