Delta Variant Cases In The UK Surge By Almost 30,000 In A Week Ahead Of June 21 Decision
The number of cases of the Delta variant of the coronavirus has shot up by 29,892 in a week amid growing pessimism over the June 21 unlocking.
The number of people who tested positive for the variant of the illness first detected in India jumped from 12,431 to 42,323 in the last week, Public Health England (PHE) said on Friday morning.
The Delta variant now accounts for 90% of coronavirus cases in the UK and is believed to be 60% more transmissable than the Alpha variant first identified in Kent, PHE said.
The data will cast more doubt over whether the government will go ahead with plans to remove all lockdown measures on June 21, with Boris Johnson expected to make a decision on Sunday ahead of an announcement on Monday.
The Prime Minister has struck a markedly more cautious tone this week after recently saying there was "nothing" in the data to make him think the June 21 milestone would have to be delayed.
On Wednesday Johnson said: "What everybody can see very clearly is that cases are going up and, in some places, hospitalisations are going up".
Ministers are reportedly mulling a plan to delay the final easing of all coronavirus restrictions by two weeks.PHE said that while Delta variant cases were rising quickly, it was "encouraging" to see that it had not yet been accompanied by a similarly large increase in hospitalisations across the country.
This suggests the vaccine rollout is mitigating the impact of the variant, PHE said.
Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said: "With numbers of Delta variant cases on the rise across the country, vaccination is our best defence.
"If you are eligible, we urge you to come forward and be vaccinated. Remember that two doses provide significantly more protection than a single dose".
She added: "However, while vaccination reduces the risk of severe disease, it does not eliminate it.
"With data showing that Delta is significantly more transmissible than Alpha, it is just as important as ever to follow public health advice, which has not changed.
"Get vaccinated, work from home where you can and remember ‘hands, face, space, fresh air’ at all times. These measures work, and they save lives".