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Coronavirus

Britain’s Johnson Concerned about India Variant

LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he’s concerned about the rise in the U.K. of the coronavirus variant first identified in India.

A closely monitored study of coronavirus infections in England has found that the variant of the virus is becoming more prevalent ahead of the next big easing of the lockdown.

In its latest assessment published Thursday, Imperial College London said overall cases have fallen to their lowest level since last August following a strict lockdown and a successful rollout of vaccines. The so-called REACT study found the Indian variant was identified in 7.7% of the 127,000 cases tested between April 15 and May 3.

The next easing in England is set to take place on Monday when two households will be able to mix indoors and pubs and restaurants will be able to serve customers inside, among other changes. The other nations of the U.K. — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — have also laid out similar plans for the coming weeks.

The government hopes to lift most remaining restrictions on social contact in June. It’s unclear whether that will lead to a big increase in hospitalizations and deaths given most of those people deemed vulnerable have been vaccinated.

New infections are averaging around 2,000 a day across the U.K., compared with nearly 70,000 in January. There were 11 reported deaths on Wednesday. Overall, Britain has Europe’s highest confirmed death toll at more than 127,600.

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