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More people urged to come forward for vaccines as Indian variant on the rise

Ministers will step up calls for people, especially those living in hotspots of the Indian Covid variant, to accept a vaccination as soon as they are offered one.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has voiced his frustration that some people are refusing to get vaccinated despite being eligible.

The health secretary said anyone who was unsure should look at Bolton, where most people in hospital with Covid were eligible for a jab but had not had one.

Matt Hancock says 86 local councils have five or more cases of the variant.

Last night he tweeted: “The success of our vaccination programme means we’re able to take Step 3 in our roadmap today, carefully easing some of the restrictions we’ve all endured.

“I urge everyone who’s eligible to come forward and get your jab.”

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Sunday Times revealed 20,000 people entered the UK as government delayed putting India on the ‘red list’.

Mr Hancock said there were now 2,323 confirmed cases of the Indian variant in the UK, of which 483 were in Bolton and in Blackburn with Darwen.

Cases there had doubled in the past week, with 19 people in Bolton in hospital with the variant and eight in Blackburn, and it is now the dominant strain in the area.

The Times has reported that ministers are considering contingency plans for local lockdowns if the strain cannot be brought under control.

Mr Hancock told Sky News at the weekend there is a “high degree of confidence” that the current COVID vaccines will protect against the Indian variant, but it could “spread like wildfire” among those who have not had a jab.

Meanwhile, millions of people have been enjoying new freedoms – such as indoor pints, hugs with loved ones and foreign holidays – for the first time in months under Monday’s separate easing of restrictions across the three nations.

People across the country are still urged to remain cautious while things are reopening.

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