The Covid-19 vaccination programme in Harrow will be “accelerated” following the spread of the Indian variant.

Sean Harriss, chief executive of Harrow Council, told a council cabinet meeting yesterday (Thursday, May 27) there are plans in place to speed up the delivery of the vaccine to combat variant B1.167.2.

This includes bringing second dose dates forward, so they are administered within eight weeks as opposed to 11 and creating a series of pop-up sites across the borough over the next couple of weeks to support the mass vaccination centre in Byron Hall.

The new variant, first discovered in India, is seen as the key threat to the UK’s efforts in addressing Covid-19 – yesterday, 3,542 new coronavirus cases were recorded across the country, the first time since mid-April that this figure topped 3,000 two days in a row.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he believes up to three-quarters of these cases could stem from the variant and he urged local authorities and the public to “remain vigilant”.

Mr Harriss explained receiving a second dose of the vaccine provides “significant additional protection” against this variant.

He added the best way to tackle the spread of this strain is to “maximise the vaccination process” and said the council would do all it could to support this.

It comes following a period of surge testing in schools in the borough, where the council sought to test “as many young people aged 11 and over” before schools break for half-term today (Friday, May 28).

Mr Harriss said it had been a “magnificent effort” from all involved to promote and carry out this testing, with other family members and carers of schoolchildren also encouraged to take regular tests.

Cllr Graham Henson (Lab, Roxbourne), leader of Harrow Council, said it is vital people continue to get tested to combat the spread of the Indian variant and to come forward for the Covid-19 vaccine when invited.

This echoed the message from Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who described the situation as a “straight race” between transmissibility of the new variant and vaccine delivery.