Data shows 7 of worst 10 COVID hotspots in Europe are in UK

A pedestrian wearing a face covering walks past a sign for a walk-in Covid-19 testing centre in Blackburn, north west England on June 16, 2021. - The UK government on Monday announced a four-week delay to the full lifting of coronavirus restrictions in England due to a surge in infections caused by Delta, which first appeared in India. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)
A pedestrian wearing a face covering walks past a sign for a walk-in COVID testing centre in Blackburn, north-west England. (Getty)

After Boris Johnson announced a planned lifting of coronavirus restrictions in England on 19 July, he said we should be prepared to live with COVID despite a rise in infections.

Social distancing guidelines such as the face mask mandate and the one-metre-plus rule are set to come to an end in less than two weeks.

Johnson has gambled on trusting the public’s judgement and the “wall of immunity” offered by vaccines rather than laws that force people to adhere to guidelines.

However, data from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that over half of the worst 10 COVID hotspots in the whole of Europe are in the UK – suggesting the prevalence of the Delta variant is further ahead in the UK than the rest of the continent.

Many of the top COVID hotspots in Europe are in the UK. (WHO)
Many of the top COVID hotspots in Europe are in the UK. (WHO)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives an update on relaxing restrictions imposed on the country during the coronavirus covid-19 pandemic at a virtual press conference inside the Downing Street Briefing Room in central London on July 5, 2021. - Prime Minister Boris Johnson will on Monday unveil a plan to lift most if not all of England's pandemic restrictions from July 19, as he urged the public to
Boris Johnson has announced plans to end England's lockdown on 19 July. (Getty)

The top 10 COVID hotspots in Europe, based on incidences per 100,000 people across the last seven days, are:

  1. Tayside, Scotland: 687

  2. North East, England: 616

  3. Lothian, Scotland: 574

  4. Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Scotland: 490

  5. Cyprus: 424

  6. Fife, Scotland: 422

  7. North West, England: 411

  8. Catalunya, Spain: 389

  9. Algarve, Portugal: 361

  10. Lanarkshire, Scotland: 355

The data shows that the regions in the UK with the highest incident rates are in Scotland and the north of England, with southern areas of England not featuring in the top 10 COVID hotspots at all.

COVID cases in the UK are highest in the north. (ONS)
COVID cases in England are highest in the north. (ONS)
Scotland and England have seen the biggest rises of COVID cases across the UK. (ONS)
Scotland and England have seen the biggest rises of COVID cases across the UK. (ONS)

While the prime minister has said England’s COVID restrictions are likely to be torn up on 19 July, all but a handful of rules will remain in Scotland until 9 August.

However, it is hoped the whole of Scotland can be placed into its lowest level of restrictions – Level 0 – on 19 July.

Watch: Cases could double but Javid defends end of COVID rules

In Wales, an announcement on rules is not expected until 14 July – but ministers have insisted they will not be rushed into a decision about scrapping restrictions.

Baroness Morgan said the Welsh government will be “following the data rather than following the politics” when it considers whether rules can be eased over the next few weeks.

First minister Mark Drakeford reminded people that changes announced by Johnson “will apply to England only”.

In Northern Ireland, the Stormont Executive is set to review progress on the Pathway Out of Restrictions plan at its meeting on Thursday, and consider the sequencing of further relaxations.

Live music was given the green light to return from 5 July and the number of households permitted to meet outdoors at private dwellings increased from three to five, with the maximum number of people remaining at 15.

On Monday NI chief medical officer Sir Michael McBride said the country had entered a fourth wave and warned cases will increase rapidly as he urged people to keep following public health advice and take up the offer of a vaccine.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks to the media after receiving her second dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at the NHS Louisa Jordan vaccine centre on June 21, 2021 in Glasgow. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JEFF J MITCHELL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Nicola Sturgeon has said COVID restrictions in Scotland will not end until after 9 August. (Getty)

Last week, Hans Kluge, the regional director of WHO Europe, said a fourth wave of coronavirus could break out by the autumn.

Speaking as data showed an increase in cases in Europe following weeks of decline, Kluge warned that a new COVID wave could break out before autumn because of “new variants, deficit in vaccine uptake and increased social mixing”.

Despite the rise in cases, England’s "Freedom Day" is on course to take place 19 July – meaning a scrapping of limits on social contact and legal requirements to wear face coverings, while all remaining businesses will be allowed to reopen.

A healthcare Worker hands in surgical gloves pulling COVID-19 vaccine liquid from vial to vaccinate a patient
Rules on self-isolation in England are set to change for those who have had two doses of the coronavirus vaccine. (Getty)

The work-from-home advice will also be removed, while bars and restaurants will no longer be restricted to table service.

On Wednesday, health secretary Sajid Javid said that from 16 August those who have been double-jabbed will no longer be required to self-isolate if they come into contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.

However, he warned that there could be 100,000 cases a day by the summer as a result of the relaxed restrictions.

Watch: What you need to know about COVID-19 variants