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Ministers hope targeted vaccine drive can beat Indian Covid variant

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Ministers are cautiously optimistic that targeted vaccinations can arrest a surge of the Indian variant and stop it from derailing Boris Johnson‘s roadmap out of lockdown.

Door-to-door Covid ‘hit squads’ are heading to Bolton and Blackburn, where the strain is at its most virulent, to focus on areas with the greatest ‘vaccine hesitancy’.

Entire multi-generational households will be offered inoculations.

A Government source said: ‘In jabs we trust.’ 

Mr Johnson will proceed as planned with tomorrow’s reopening of pubs and restaurants for indoor dining, but has warned that the Indian variant poses ‘a real risk of disruption’ to the end of social distancing on June 21.

Door-to-door Covid ‘hit squads’ are heading to Bolton and Blackburn, where the strain is at its most virulent, to focus on areas with the greatest ‘vaccine hesitancy’

Figures released yesterday showed hospital admissions down 1.2 per cent in a week to 103, with deaths down 8.9 per cent to seven.

Positive tests were fractionally down on last Saturday’s figure, at just over 2,000.

A total of 36,320,867 first doses of the vaccine have now been administered – 69 per cent of all adults in Britain – while second doses have reached 19,698,121.

Offers of a vaccine will be extended to all over-35s within days. The Government source added that there was ‘no evidence’ that vaccines were not effective against the Indian variant.

Ministers are planning to blitz areas where the Indian variant has taken hold by vaccinating entire households to stop Covid spreading ‘like wildfire’.

Figures show that in the two worst hotspots, Bolton and Blackburn, the virus is spreading three times faster in areas where the jab take-up is below 80 per cent.

With Boris Johnson warning that the Indian variant posed a threat to his roadmap out of lockdown, Ministers are now sending in the Army to help with a drive to target entire multi-generational households in the worst affected areas.

More than 4,000 people were vaccinated by a Covid ‘jab bus’ which drove into Bolton yesterday.

It comes as the NHS prepares to send invites to all over-35s by the end of the week to take up their vaccination. 

Ministers are planning to blitz areas where the Indian variant has taken hold by vaccinating entire households to stop Covid spreading 'like wildfire'

Ministers are planning to blitz areas where the Indian variant has taken hold by vaccinating entire households to stop Covid spreading ‘like wildfire’

More than 4,000 people were vaccinated by a Covid 'jab bus' (pictured) which drove into Bolton yesterday

More than 4,000 people were vaccinated by a Covid ‘jab bus’ (pictured) which drove into Bolton yesterday

And it was reported last night that at least 20,000 passengers were allowed to enter Britain while Mr Johnson delayed imposing a travel ban from India.

The PM only added India to the travel red list on April 23, three weeks after announcing a ban on flights from neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh. 

Analysis of Civil Aviation Authority data indicates an average of 900 people were arriving daily from India during the three-week period from April 2-23. 

A Government spokesman pointed out that the most dominant of three strains from India was only identified as a concern six days after the country was put on the red list. 

Ministers increasingly fear that a low take-up of the vaccine by ethnic minority communities is helping to spread the Indian variant. 

According to NHS England data, 93.5 per cent of white people aged over 50 have had a Covid jab. This falls to 83.5 per cent for South Asians, and 67 per cent among black people in the same age bracket. 

In areas of Blackburn and Bolton with the lowest vaccine take-up, the current weekly Covid rate is 261 cases per 100,000.

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi yesterday urged everyone in communities affected by the Indian strain to get the jab. 

He warned: ‘If there are communities unprotected, the virus will find them and go through them like wildfire.’

Government sources confirmed that special door-to-door jab services may now be offered in Bolton and other affected areas to combat low vaccine take-up in ethnic-minority households.

The move would mean those in their 20s with no underlying health conditions getting the jab.

Ex-Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq urged those in hotspots who were still hesitant about getting the jab to think of others. She said: ‘You would never go outside with a gun and start shooting people because you can see the destruction. But those without the jab don’t see the impact of passing the virus on.’

Labour health spokesman Jonathan Ashworth added: ‘We have to be flexible and carry out a vaccine blitz in those areas most affected by the new Indian variant.’ 

There were huge queues for a ‘jab bus’ in Bolton yesterday after everyone in the town was invited to get vaccinated before 5pm. 

Thousands waited in the pouring rain for injections as council officials went door-to-door urging residents to go to a bus parked in Great Lever – an area where vaccine take-up had been below average.

Bolton’s infection rate is the highest in the country at 192 cases per 100,000 people. The Indian variant now makes up the majority of its new cases. 

Nearly 20 million Britons have now had two doses. Yesterday, a further 2,027 cases were recorded. Seven people died.

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