Sheffield health chief reveals why he’s ‘not terribly concerned’ by Yorkshire Covid variant

A Yorkshire variant of Covid discovered in Sheffield is ‘not terribly concerning’, the city’s health chief has said.

Wednesday, 26th May 2021, 8:06 am

The Indian variant is of ‘more concern’, according to Sheffield’s director of public health, Greg Fell, but has not yet become the dominant strain here as it has in parts of the UK.

In his latest weekly briefing, Mr Fell gave an update on both the Indian variant and the Yorkshire variant, which was reported last week by a team from Sheffield University and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, and was last Friday announced as a variant of interest by Public Health England.

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Greg Fell, Sheffield's director of public health

Discussing the Yorkshire variant, he said it was ‘not terribly concerning from a public health perspective actually’ and ‘certainly not more concerning than the current dominant variant, which is the B117 or Kent variant’.

"It doesn’t appear to be much more dominant, and it doesn’t appear to be any more harmful than the existing variants of the virus that are circulating,” he added.

Mr Fell said the Indian variant is of ‘more concern’ as it was becoming more dominant in parts of the UK and was likely to become dominant in the UK, though he said it was hard to predict when this would happen.

"It hasn’t yet become dominant in Sheffield but (that’s) probably only a matter of time, probably a bit easier to spread, a bit more transmissible, almost certainly not more pathogenic and vaccine efficacy is looking OK with some caveats,” he said.

Discussing so-called ‘surge vaccinations’ in response to new outbreaks, he said the virus would ‘always outpace vaccination programmes’.

While vaccination programmes are ‘really good at protecting individuals and developing population immunity’, he said, they were not a tool to control an outbreak and it remained important for people to continue to ‘adhere to the basics’ like social distancing, wearing face coverings and washing their hands regularly and throughly.

Government guidance was last week updated with little publicity for a number of Indian variant hotspot areas, including Bolton, Leicester and Blackburn with Darwen, where people were urged to restrict their socialising and travel.

But in a joint statement, public health directors there said there were no restrictions on travel into or out of those local authorities and there were no ‘local lockdowns’.