UK records 4,182 new coronavirus cases as Indian variant surges

·3-min read
<p>Bolton (pictured) is one of the areas of the UK where the Covid variant first identified in India is spreading fastest</p> (PA Wire)

Bolton (pictured) is one of the areas of the UK where the Covid variant first identified in India is spreading fastest

(PA Wire)

The UK has recorded the highest number of new coronavirus cases in weeks after warnings about the Indian Covid variant.

According to official figures there were 4,182 new cases of Covid in the UK on Friday and a further ten deaths.

Cases of the Indian variant have more than doubled in a week, rising by 3,535 to 6,959.

On Thursday Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Indian variant is spreading and the latest estimates show it makes up more than half - and possibly as many as three-quarters - of all new Covid cases.

The B.1.617.2 variant of concern, which is believed to be more transmissible than the Kent variant which became dominant in the country after Christmas, has resulted in surge testing and vaccinations in numerous areas.

Fears are growing that the new variant could derail Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown.

All coronavirus restrictions are meant to lift on June 21, but ministers have said it is too early to say if this can go ahead.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters on Thursday he “didn’t see anything currently in the data” to divert from the June reopening target, adding: “But we may need to wait.”

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said that the reopening date may need to be delayed although “there’s nothing in the data that suggests we should move the day”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The caveat obviously is the data can change. So if scientific evidence data points to an increased hospitalisation rate, increased degree of risk, then we have flexibility to move that date.”

But he added: “As of today, as of the data I’ve seen, I didn’t think we will move the date.

“But I can’t guarantee that on May 28, you will appreciate I cannot guarantee that in three-and-a-half weeks’ time.”

Data for England published on Friday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows an estimated one in 1,120 people in private households had Covid-19 in the week to May 22 – broadly unchanged from one in 1,110 in the previous week. The estimate for Scotland is around one in 630, up from one in 1,960, putting Scotland back to where it was around a month ago.

Meanwhile, the reproduction number – the R value – for England is 1 to 1.1, up from 0.9 and 1.1 the previous week, suggesting the epidemic is growing.

The growth rate, which estimates how quickly the number of infections is changing day by day, is between 0 per cent and 3 per cent, meaning the number of new infections could be broadly flat or growing by up to 3 per cent every day.

Scientists have warned against reading too much into the numbers when the numbers of cases, hospital admissions or deaths are at low levels or there is a high degree of variability in transmission in a region.

The latest seven-day average for daily hospital admissions in England is 88 (up to May 25), which is an increase of 15 per cent on seven days earlier.

The figure means hospital admissions are back to where they were at the start of May and remain 98 per cent below the second-wave peak in January.

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