London: Britain's health minister says a fast-spreading coronavirus variant first identified in India is likely to become the dominant strain of the virus in the UK.
Health officials are conducting door-to-door testing in several areas of the country in an attempt to curb the spread of the variant, which the government has warned could disrupt the UK's reopening plans. Surge vaccinations in key regions are to begin shortly.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the new strain, formally known as B.1.617.2, is more transmissible than the UK's dominant strain. He told the BBC "it is likely it will become the dominant variant."
Hancock said scientists had a "high degree of confidence" that current vaccines work against the new variant, and there is no evidence it causes more a severe disease.
The government says it will go ahead with plans to ease lockdown restrictions on Monday. People in England will be able to eat a restaurant meal or drink a beer indoors, go to a movie and visit one another's homes for the first time in months.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson says that if the variant causes a big surge in cases it could scupper plans to lift all remaining restrictions on June 21.