Social media firms told to shut ‘Indian variant posts

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A double dose of vaccines is nearly as effective against the fast-spreading variant first identified in India as it is against Britain's dominant strain, English health officials said.

The news comes as coronavirus restrictions in Northern Ireland are relaxed further today.

From May 17 as part of the government's lockdown easing plan, pubs, bars and restaurants in England were permitted to open indoors, while indoor entertainment resumed, including cinemas, museums and children's play areas.

Strict rules on table service will prevent some outlets from opening, however.

The rise in cases of the Indian variant came as a leaked document suggested the rapid spread of the strain was at least partially due to failures at NHS Test and Trace.

It was also found that both vaccines were 33% effective against symptomatic disease caused by the India variant, three weeks after the first dose.

"Fortunately we've had a good proportion of the population vaccinated, but there's still people who aren't vaccinated in high-risk groups, the vaccine isn't 100 per cent effective, and also even in the younger groups, if you get many, many thousands or hundreds of thousands of cases, then you will expect a lot of hospitalisations and deaths to result from that".

The AstraZeneca jab was also found to be 60 per cent effective against the Indian variant after two doses and 66 per cent effective against the Kent strain.

Although there are concerns about the vaccine's effectiveness against the Indian strain, Public Health England published data indicating that both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer jabs should be 81% effective. "But there is still uncertainty, 50 per cent might be a reasonable worst case scenario", he said, in reference to the rate of transmissibility of the variant of concern (VOC) first detected in India. A total of 33 infections diagnosed over the last seven days were related to travel from overseas and 2,319 were linked to other confirmed cases.

CDC relaxes mask-wearing rules for fully vaccinated people
Walensky said if you develop coronavirus symptoms, you should put your mask back on and get tested right away. "But any other time, if you're vaccinated and you're outside, put aside your mask", Fauci said .

Agency efforts to determine variant classification include reviews of the latest case percentages, as well as laboratory, epidemiological and clinical research data, according to Jasmine Reed, another CDC spokesperson.

On May 13, the Centre extended the interval between the first and second doses of Covishield by 12-16 weeks, citing "real-life evidence" from the UK.

The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, was 25, including one local case.

This point was backed by Dr Susan Hopkins, Covid-19 strategic response director for PHE.

"Get a second dose of the vaccine as soon as it's offered", that's the urgent message from the Health Secretary after new data showing how effective the vaccines are against symptomatic disease.

There are insufficient cases and follow-up periods to estimate vaccine effectiveness against severe outcomes from the Indian variant but this will be evaluated over the coming weeks, PHE added.

The UK government now plans to lift the country's remaining COVID-19 restrictions from June 21, and health secretary Matt Hancock told journalists the PHE's findings ensure the country is on track.

On January 4 this year, V.K. Paul, NITI Aayog member and head of India's vaccine administration group, said the country "had a sufficient stockpile of vaccines to inoculate priority groups such as healthcare workers and frontline workers in the first phase", to quote from The Wire Science's report.

Indian government's strong response comes after the World Health Organization clarified that it does not identify the strains and variants of COVID-19 with the names of the countries they originate from rather it refers to them with their scientific name.

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