British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned that the final stage of the lifting of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions across Britain could face serious issues due to the India variant. The Indian COVID-19 variant could pose 'serious disruption' to lockdown easing in Britain on June 21, the PM has said.

Johnson said plans to ease restrictions on May 17, allowing people to meet in groups of six indoors would go ahead, but that the variant could make it more difficult for the final stage of unlocking to proceed on June 21.

Businesses will be allowed to open as planned, but the public is urged to get the vaccine when they are eligible, take tests regularly and self-isolate if they test positive.

"The variant could pose serious disruption to our progress. We may have to live with it for a very long time," Boris Johnson said on Friday. PM Boris Johnson said if it was found to be 'significantly' more transmissible there could be some hard choices. 

He said the India variant appeared to be 'more transmissible' than the dominant strain in the UK, which originated in Kent, but that it was not yet clear by how much. If it is significantly more, then, he warned, "We're likely to face some hard choices."

Johnson said there are still important unknowns related to the B1.617.2 variant of COVID-19 first detected in India for Britain. Cases of the Indian COVID-19 variant have nearly tripled in the past week, Public Health England figures show.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Johnson has said that the wait between jabs will be cut from 12 weeks to eight weeks for people above the age of 50 years and clinically vulnerable because of concern over the variant. "The race between our vaccine programme and the virus may be about to become a great deal tighter," he added.

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