BORIS Johnson has admitted to being anxious about the surge in cases of the super-infectious Indian Covid variant.

But the PM said he still expected to tear up lockdown restrictions on both May 17 and June 21.

Will lockdown end on June 21?

The surge in Indian variant cases in the UK has triggered demands for the June 21 unlocking to be delayed.

Britain's long-awaited 'Freedom Day' is now in doubt, with scientists and Boris Johnson's former adviser Dominic Cummings among those calling for it to be postponed.

Foreign office minister James Cleverly said that Boris is prepared to alter his roadmap to freedom if scientists advise him it's necessary to do so.

The PM said he is ruling "nothing out", as he vowed to combat the spread of the infectious mutation.

On Thursday, May 13, he said there was "nothing that dissuades me" from easing England's lockdown on Monday, May 17, or the further steps towards normality on June 21.

But he added "there may be things we have to do locally and we will not hesitate to do them if that is the advice we get".

There is no current evidence that vaccines do not work against the Indian variant, which is thought to be at least as transmissible as the Kent variant of the virus.

Epidemiologist Professor Paul Hunter said Brits now face a nail-biting wait for data on exactly how serious the current outbreaks are and how many people end up dead or in hospital.

"The big question is how many people who are getting the Indian variant will end up requiring hospitalisation," he told Radio 4's Today programme.

Could the UK go back into lockdown?

Boris has denied reports he said he'd rather see "bodies pile high in their thousands" than order Britain back into lockdown for a third time.

He has stressed the need for caution and vigilance as lockdown is gradually eased, with the next step on May 17.

However, Boris has said there is nothing as yet to "dissuade" him from taking further steps towards normality on June 21.

But, the PM has warned, "the end of the lockdown is not the end of the pandemic".

"The World Health Organisation has said that the pandemic has now reached its global peak and will last throughout this year," he told the Commons.

The PM has said he will take "whatever action" is necessary either "regionally or nationally" to squash the Indian Covid variant.

This could mean a return for some in England to local lockdowns to contain the spread of the virus.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said "we rule nothing out" in terms of redrawing the jabs rollout or even reimposing lockdowns.

He was speaking amid growing concern that the spread of the Indian variant could delay the final stage of the PM's roadmap on June 21.

Cases have more than doubled in the space of seven days from 520 last week to 1,313 this, sparking alarm in Whitehall.

Asked if local lockdowns could be reimposed, Mr Zahawi replied: "We will rule nothing out to make sure we bear down on this virus and get our lives back according to the roadmap."

He added that one option was "flexing" the vaccine rollout to deliver extra jabs to the worst affected parts of the country.

Resistance to local lockdowns

Local lockdowns are only expected to be used if evidence suggests they are necessary to contain or suppress a variant which escapes the vaccine.

Although the Indian variant is thought to be highly transmissible, jabs are expected to be effective against it.

Any attempt to impose new restrictions is likely to meet with fierce resistance.

Tory Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of MPs, asked: "Why on earth would we lock down when the vaccines continue to break the link between cases and hospitalisations and deaths?"

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham warned against attempts to impose local measures, saying "we would be very concerned".

Where is the Indian variant in the UK?

Data from Public Health England (PHE) shows cases of the Indian strain have doubled from 520 to 1,313 in a week, according to data up to May 5.

The agency said infections were “rising in the community”.

The Prime Minister has said the Government is “anxious” about the variant, called B.1.617.2, which has emerged just as the UK is starting to recover from Covid.

PHE says there are 1,255 cases in England, 35 in Scotland, 11 in Wales and 12 in Northern Ireland.

Data to April 24 reveals that in four areas of England, the Indian variant is the most dominant.

These are South Northamptonshire, Bolton, Blackburn with Darwen, and Bedford. 

The data comes from the genomics centre the Wellcome Sanger Institute, which does not include cases related to travel or surge testing.

Cases are predominantly in younger people, public health officials say.

In Bolton, which has one of the highest case rates of the variant in the country, mobile testing units have been deployed and door-to-door PCR Covid testing has been offered to 22,000 residents.

A vaccine bus has been set up to increase uptake among those who are eligible and a rapid response team of 100 nurses, public health advisers and environmental health officers has been sent in.

Meanwhile, surge testing has been deployed in Sefton, Merseyside, after cases of the Indian variant were confirmed in the Formby area, with anyone over 16 who lives, works or studies in the area urged to take a PCR test.

Measures have also been brought in elsewhere, including in parts of London.

Dr Susan Hopkins, COVID-19 Strategic Response Director at PHE, said: "Cases of this variant are rising in the community and we are continuously monitoring its spread and severity to ensure we take rapid public health action.

"If you’re asked to take a test please do. The way to limit the spread of all variants is the same.

"Keep your distance, wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, cover your nose and mouth when inside, keep buildings well ventilated and meet people from other households outside."

What's the latest on lockdowns in Scotland, Wales and in Northern Ireland?

SCOTLAND:

Scotland is seeing a "loss of control" of the pandemic in some areas and it is premature to lift restrictions further, an epidemiologist has warned.

Dr Deepti Gurdasani urged action to prevent the situation spiralling amid a threat from the new Indian variant of the virus.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said the situation in Glasgow is being monitored "very closely", with cases in the city at 70.9 per 100,000 people in the seven days to May 10, according to latest data.

The Scottish Government has been gradually easing lockdown restrictions, with stay at home measures lifted at the beginning of April.

On April 26, beer gardens, cafes, restaurants, gyms and non-essential shops were allowed to reopen.

From May 17, Scotland is expected to move from level three restrictions to level two.

The Scottish Government is set to allow people to travel to some overseas countries without needing to quarantine upon return.

It is understood the move will be introduced from May 24 and will be similar to the traffic light system which is in place in England.

WALES:

From Monday May 17, Wales will re-open its indoor hospitality and entertainment venues.

This encompasses indoor service for pubs, restaurants, bars and cafes as well as entertainment venues like cinemas.

Thirty people can take part in organised indoor events and up to 50 people in organised outdoor events.

Holiday accommodation can re-open fully from May 17, and international travel will resume in Wales, following the same traffic light system as set out in England and Scotland, reports Wales Online.

However there are concerns about the Indian coronavirus variant.

The First Minster said there were now 26 cases of the mutated strain of Covid-19 across Wales, up from 17 on Thursday, May 13, with each case associated with foreign travel as opposed to community transmission.

Wales could allow small food festivals and small live music and arts events to reopen next week if the Indian coronavirus variant poses no need to pause relaxing restrictions, Mark Drakeford has said.

NORTHERN IRELAND:

Northern Ireland is allowing non-essential travel to other parts of the Common Travel Area (CTA) from May 24.

The CTA is the UK, Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man, explains BBC News.

Depending on final approval on May 20, indoor hospitality can reopen on May 24, along with the remainder of the tourism sector, including hotels and B&Bs; up to 500 spectators can watch outdoor sporting events; libraries and museums can reopen their doors; and wedding receptions and post-funeral events can resume.

When is the next lockdown review?

In Scotland the virus is constantly under review, with hopes that, all going well, all of Scotland can move to level one with more people allowed to meet up from June 1, reports BBC News.

In Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford is keen to reopen theatres and allow conferences to take place from June 21 – but this depends on the latest data and the Indian Covid variant.

Northern Ireland's current coronavirus regulations will be reviewed on June 10, 2021.

England's route out of lockdown is also constantly under review.

How will lockdown end in the UK?

The PM unveiled his four step blueprint to lift lockdown at the end of March 2021, but he warned that before each step could be taken, benchmark numbers must be met.

These include the number of Covid infections, coronavirus-related hospital admissions, vaccinations and deaths.

Boris is expected to say the rule of six can be scrapped altogether by June and the UK return to a true sense of normality, albeit with social distancing in place, by July.

He told MPs in January: “As was the case last spring, our emergence from the lockdown cocoon will not be a big bang but a gradual unwrapping".

This is "to allow a steady, controlled and evidence-led move… carefully, brick by brick, as it were, breaking free of our confinement but without risking the hard won gains that our protections have given us", he added.

Roadmap to normality

Lockdown began to ease on March 8 when schools reopened and Brits were allowed to once again meet one friend or family member in an outside space for a picnic or a coffee.

The next significant milestone was March 29, when outdoors gatherings of either six people or two households were given the green light, reuniting friends for the first time in months.

The same date also saw the return of outdoor sports such as tennis, golf and even football, the PM announced.

Then from April 12 non-essential shops were unlocked in stage three of our return to normal.

Hairdressers and Beauty Salons were also allowed to open, but customers still have to wear a mask in the chair.

That's the same when visiting piercers and tattoo parlours.

Aside from shops opening their doors again, pubs and restaurants were allowed to reopen from April 12 – but only for outdoor dining.

The next big step is on May 17, when a whole new set of freedoms kicks off for Brits after months of tough restrictions.

Leisure facilities such as cinemas, bingo halls, and theatres have the green light to reopen from May 17.

The rule of six for outdoor gatherings will be extended to the rule of 30 from May 17.

Pubs and restaurants can welcome customers back inside from May 17 – but venues must provide table service only, with the rule of six in place for indoors diners and drinkers.

Linda Magistris, founder of the Good Grief Trust, warned of the "tsunami of grief and mental health issues this year and next year" over the impact of the ongoing pandemic.

How many national lockdowns have there been in the UK?

The UK is currently under its third lockdown.

The first lockdown started on March 23, 2020, and restrictions lasted into July.

The second UK lockdown was announced on October 31, despite the Prime Minister vowing to do "everything in his power" to avoid the measures.

The measures came into force on Thursday, November 5, and ended on December 2.

On January 4, 2021, the third national lockdown was confirmed.

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