abinet minister George Eustice has said it is “encouraging” that Covid-19 jabs are stopping people getting infected with the Indian variant which he stressed is yet to fuel a big rise in hospitalisations.
Environment Secretary Mr Eustice emphasised the “critical test” for the June 21 reopening is whether people who have been vaccinated are getting infected with the B1.617.2 Delta variant, first identified in India.
He also denied that the latest data was “grim” after a report that England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance had given Cabinet ministers a “downbeat” report on the latest figures.
Amid claims the June 21 lockdown end could be delayed by a couple of weeks or more, Mr Eustice told Sky News: “We don’t rule anything out, though, the critical test really is are those people with the new variant, are people who have had the vaccine, getting infected.
“There have been a couple of cases I think…not many, it’s encouraging and we are obviously making good progress on the vaccination.
“But it’s too early to say yet what we will do, we will be announcing that next Monday.”
Only a very small number of people who have been double jabbed have been hospitalised and the Government is rushing out the vaccine in a race against the Delta variant’s spread, which is largely among younger adults and children.
Pressed on the report of a “fairly grim” briefing by Prof Whitty and Sir Patrick, Mr Eustice added: “I’m not sure I would say it’s grim.
“We have seen an increase obviously in the infection rates so that’s gone up, ticked up…it’s gone up that’s for sure.
“What we are not seeing at the moment is that growth in hospitalisations associated with it that’s because we know that if people have the vaccine, particularly once they have had the second jab of the vaccine, it actually does give them immunity to this new strain that is around.
“But there have been a few cases of people who have had the double jab who have then gone on still to get infected again, that is why we need to look very closely at this.”
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and Health Secretary Matt Hancock have been more hardline on imposing and keeping restrictions to protect public health, while Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps are reported to be warning of the economic harm which will be caused by delaying the June 21 lockdown end.