UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said there is a “high degree of confidence” that the current vaccines work against the Indian variant of coronavirus.

Speaking to Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “There’s new very early data out from Oxford University, and I would stress that this is from the labs, it’s not clinical data, and it’s very early.

“But it does give us a degree of confidence that the vaccines work against this Indian variant, but it is clearly more transmissible and has been spreading fast in the groups where there’s a cluster.

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“That means that we can stay on course with our strategy of using the vaccine to deal with the pandemic and opening up carefully and cautiously but we do need to be really very vigilant to the spread of the disease.

“We have a high degree of confidence that the vaccine will overcome.”

He urged people to come forward to get vaccinated, arguing the “vast majority” of people in Bolton in hospital with the new variant have been eligible for the jab but have not taken it.

Hancock added that a decision on whether all legal restrictions can be ended next month will be made on June 14 but said that there would be a “very, very large number of cases” if the Indian variant “gets out of hand”.

“We do need to make sure we don’t get that explosion in cases, so we need to be cautious, we need to be careful, we need to be vigilant,” he said.

“We will make a final decision for step 4, which is the biggest step in the road map, we will make that decision on June 14.”

Despite some criticism from the likes of the British Medical Association, the Health Secretary insisted it is “appropriate” to continue with the major easing of restrictions in England on Monday despite concerns over the Indian variant. 

He said that if the increase in transmissibility is lower “there will be almost no impact on our road map and the future number of cases”.

“And we just don’t know, so that’s why it’s appropriate to continue down the road map but people need to be cautious and careful.

“And anyway we’re moving the balance more towards people taking personal responsibility and trying to get away from some of the more intrusive ones that we’ve had to have in place.”

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 “I very much hope not and our goal remains, our strategy remains, to take a cautious and irreversible approach to ensure that we’re always looking at the data all the way through, and crucially to use the vaccine to get us out of this pandemic.”

He also signalled the Government would be prepared to implement a local lockdown in Bolton if one was needed to protect people.

Mr Hancock replied “we do not rule that out” when asked about the prospect of specific areas having different restrictions compared to the rest of the country to deal with the risk posed by Covid-19 variant