1.In its letter to the Department of 3 March 2021, the Committee requested a memorandum on the following points:
(1) In regulation 20, explain the meaning of “variant of concern” and “variant under investigation”.
(i) whether the cross-reference in regulation 6(c)(i) to “(d) or (e)” should be to “(c) or (e)”;
(ii) why the words in inserted paragraph 4B(2)(c) of regulation 7 do not flow from the opening words of regulation 4B(2);
(iii) whether the cross-reference in regulation 16(b) (inserted paragraph 7(b)) should be to paragraph “10(5)” rather than “10(4)”: and
(iv) why Regulation 20(3) (inserted regulation 4ZA(1)(c)) refers to a paragraph 6(1)(e) which does not exist?
2.The Department’s response to the Committee’s points is as follows.
3.In relation to point (1), a “variant under investigation” is a sample of coronavirus which is designated as such and considered to have epidemiological, immunological or pathogenic properties that could have particular and substantial public health implications. After a formal review process, a variant under investigation will be designated “a variant of concern” if it could pose an elevated public health risk if it is allowed to spread unchecked within the UK. Our understanding is that the terms “variants of concern” and “variants under investigation” have a commonly understood meaning in the scientific and public health community and hence do not need to be defined.
4.In relation to point (2)(i), the Department confirms that the cross-reference in regulation 6(c)(i) to “(d) or (e)” should have been to “(c) or (e)”. The Department has corrected this error by means of regulation 4(2) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel) (England) (Amendment) (No. 9) Regulations 2021 (S.I. 2021/223) (“the Amending Regulations”), which were made and came into force on 2 March.
5.In relation to point (2)(ii), the Department confirms that this was an oversight. This has been corrected by means of regulation 5 of the Amending Regulations.
6.In relation to point (2)(iii), the Department confirms that the cross-reference in regulation 16(b) should have been to paragraph “10(5)” rather than “10(4)”. The Department intends to make Regulations to address this point as soon as possible.
7.In relation to point (2)(iv), the Department confirms that this was an oversight and that the correct reference should have been to paragraph 7(1)(f). This has been corrected by means of regulation 10(2) of the Amending Regulations.
8.The Department apologises to the Committee for the errors and wishes to note that they have either been rectified or are in the process of being rectified.
Department of Health and Social Care
9 March 2021