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COVID-19: Four people in the UK have died with new Indian variant, while risk levels remain low, data shows

Written by on 14 May 2021

Four people have now died in the UK with the Indian variant of COVID-19 – the first known domestic deaths from the new variant of the virus.

According to data published by the government, the four deaths from the B.1.617.2 strain of the virus, now designated a “variant of concern”, took place between 5 May and 12 May.

And Sky News understands that following an emergency meeting of SAGE on Thursday, members have agreed surge vaccinating would help to curb cases.

Live COVID updates from UK and around world

While the news represents a new watershed for the virus, it does not necessarily imply the new variant is any more lethal than the others in circulation around the UK.

The Indian variant has only recently been detected in the UK, but the number of cases in which it has been found has risen sharply, with over 1,300 sequenced as of 12 May.

Nurses from the nearby St Thomas hospital have a rest on the National Covid Memorial Wall in London, Tuesday, April 27, 2021. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has denied a press report which quoted him as allegedly saying he would rather see ...bodies pile high in their thousands... than impose a third national lockdown on the country. The Daily Mail claimed that Johnson made the comment in the fall of 2020, when his government imposed a second lockdown to combat a surge in coronavirus cases. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)                                                                                                                       Image: Only recently detected in the UK, the number of cases has risen sharply

The variant is thought to be spreading in certain areas of the UK, including Bolton and Blackburn – though because overall COVID-19 case numbers remain low, broader risk levels remain lower than they were for much of the winter.

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Sky’s Data and Economics Editor Ed Conway has been looking at the evidence driving government decisions over COVID variants

Early evidence provides tentative signs the new variant is not resistant to the vaccines, with those aged over 60 in areas such as Bolton and Blackburn seeing far smaller increases in cases than those in younger age groups.

The Indian variant: Where is it getting worse?

Blackburn with Darwen Council rowed back on its plans to vaccinate over 18’s in the area hours after they were announced.

There are fears the spread of the variant may cause the prime minister to delay the final stages of easing Britain’s lockdown in June.

However, the very latest statistics show about one in 1,340 people in England had coronavirus in the week ending 8 May, according to the Office for National Statistics.

It means the number of people with COVID has continued to decrease.

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