Good morning. As we report in our overnight splash, there are concerns that the Covid variant first detected in India is set to be the dominant strain in the UK within days. Some experts think it was a mistake for Boris Johnson to go ahead with the easing of lockdown restrictions implemented yesterday, and there is increasing doubt about whether the further lifting of lockdown measures will be able to go ahead as planned next month.

George Eustice, the environment secretary, was speaking for the government on the morning news programmes, and he confirmed that local lockdowns might be needed if the situation were to deteriorate in some areas. He told Times Radio:

We’ve made the latest set of easements yesterday. We’ll assess in a few weeks’ time, whether we can go further on 21 June. But I would just say that you know we can’t rule anything out, obviously, and the prime minister made that clear over the weekend.

If we do have a deterioration in some of these areas, then of course we can’t rule out that we would put in place certain local lockdowns. So at the moment we’re doing a lot of intensive surveillance in those areas with surge testing to identify it and deal with it.

Last week Boris Johnson did not deny that a return to local lockdowns might be an option, but Eustice’s comment suggests the idea might be creeping up the agenda. The Times has splashed on a story (paywall) saying that “officials have drawn up plans [for local lockdowns] modelled on the tier 4 restrictions introduced last year” and that “under the measures, people would be advised to stay at home and non-essential shops and hospitality would be closed if the new strain was not brought under control”.

Allie Hodgkins-Brown

Tuesday’s TIMES: “Fears that spread of variant may end in tiers” #TomorrowsPapersToday

May 17, 2021

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: Boris Johnson chairs cabinet.

12pm: Downing Street is expected to hold its daily lobby briefing.

12.30pm: Penny Mordaunt, the Cabinet Office minister, responds to a Labour urgent question about enforcement of the ministerial code.

2pm: Alok Sharma, the Cop26 president, gives evidence to the Commons foreign affairs committee.

2pm: Nicola Sturgeon is due to be reconfirmed in the Scottish parliament as Scotland’s first minister.

4pm: Lord Frost, the Brexit minister, gives evidence to the Lords European affairs committee.

Also, Johnson is visiting a vaccination centre. And George Eustice, the environment secretary, is giving a speech on protecting peatlands and creating more woodlands.

Politics Live has been a mix of Covid and non-Covid news recently. Today I expect to be focusing mostly on Covid. For more Covid coverage, do read our global live blog.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

This content first appear on the guardian

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