Hounslow becomes first London borough to offer surge Covid vaccinations after rise in Indian variant cases

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Hounslow has become the first London borough to offer surge Covid vaccinations after a rise in cases of the Indian variant.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs that surge testing and extra vaccine supplies were being deployed in areas to control the spread of the highly-transmissible strain.

Across the country, almost 3,000 cases of the Indian coronavirus variant of concern have been identified, an increase of 600 since Monday.

“The race between the virus and the vaccine has got a whole lot closer,” the Health Secretary said.

Mr Hancock said an “extensive bio-security surveillance system” and new techniques had been used to identify further areas of concern.

As a result, there will be surge testing and vaccinations in Hounslow, west London.

"What this means in practice is we are putting in place more testing and more testing sites. And on vaccinations, we are making more vaccinations available to everyone who is eligible," Mr Hancock said.

Some experts say the highly transmissible B1617.2 strain could knock England’s route out of lockdown off course.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: "Following the identification of cases of the Covid-19 variant of concern first discovered in India, enhanced measures are being introduced in Hounslow in order to prevent the spread of this virus and protect Londoners.

 "I am in constant contact with NHS London and Public Health England, who are keeping a close eye on the situation in our city and will continue to take action to prevent the further spread of the virus.

"In Hounslow surge testing will be taking place, there will be more vaccines available for those who have already been invited to book, and second doses will be brought forward."