The Indian (Delta) variant of COVID-19 is 40% more transmissible than the Kent (Alpha) strain, Matt Hancock has told Sky News.
The health secretary said the new variant had made decisions behind the 21 June unlocking of restrictions “more difficult”.
Speaking on the Trevor Phillips On Sunday show, Mr Hancock said: “That figure, around 40% more transmissible, is the latest advice that I have. That means that it is more difficult to manage this virus with the new Delta variant, but crucially we believe that with two doses of the vaccine you get the same protection as the old variant.”
The health secretary also said vaccines would be opened up to under-30s in the next few days.
“This week we will be opening up vaccines to the under-30s and so we are getting a step closer to the point when we’ve been able to offer the vaccine to all adults in this country,” he said.
Mr Hancock also said vaccinating children over the age of 12 would have its ‘upsides’ for education.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) on Friday approved the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds.
“I’m delighted the regulator, having looked very carefully at the data, has come forward and said that the jab is safe and effective for those who are over the age of 12.
“We’re taking advice currently from the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation (JCVI), the experts in this, on the right approach to putting this into practise,” Mr Hancock said.
“I want to protect education as much as anybody does, and so making sure that we don’t have those whole bubbles having to go home, especially as we saw over the autumn for instance, that has upsides for education,” he added.
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