THIS map reveals where the Indian Covid variant hotspots are.
Official data shows that in four regions, the strain is the most dominant circulating.
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Called B.1.617.2, it is thought to be even more transmissible than the Kent strain, and could soon overthrow it.
Bolton is the UK’s current epicentre, where 47 positive Covid tests were caused by the Indian variant in the week to April 24.
It made up more than 55 per cent of all Covid cases in those seven days.
Following was nearby Blackburn with Darwen, where 19 cases were identified – 55.7 per cent of the area's total.
But it was South Northamptonshire where the proportion of cases were the highest – almost 77 per cent.
However, only five cases were detected there overall in the week to April 24, according to the official data from the Wellcome Sanger Institute.
As well as Bolton and Blackburn with Darwen, the fraction of cases caused by the Indian variant were at least half in Bedford (53.8 per cent, 10 cases) and Colchester (50 per cent, one case).
It confirms a report from Public Health England last week which said there are already early signs the variant is overtaking that which started in Kent.
Sanger data also shows at least four in ten cases in Sefton, Broxtowe and Breckland are traceable to the B.1.617.2 variant.
Twelve cases were seen in Nottingham (40 per cent of total cases) and 10 in Leicester (12.7 per cent).
No more than five have been seen in any London borough, with the proportion highest in Bromley (46.2 per cent).
Nationally, Sanger reveals that 6.1 per cent of England cases up to April 24 were caused by B.1.617.2 – up from 0.7 per cent just two weeks earlier.
Data from COG-UK says 8.19 per cent of UK cases are being caused by B.1.617.2
Scientists only genetically screen 50 per cent of Covid swabs to see which variant they were caused by.
It means the 1,723 cases of B.1.617.2 identified in the UK (and 1,627 in England) to May 7 could in fact be twice as high, when considering the samples that are not genetically sequenced.
PHE has only confirmed 520 cases as of April 28.
Cases appear to be littered across England. But so far, only Bolton has been provided surge testing to stamp out spread.
Covid cases rise in Indian variant hotspots
Covid cases have risen significantly in areas that have been identified as hotspots of the Indian Covid variant.
Bolton, Greater Manchester, diagnosed 467 cases in the week to May 8, up on the 238 to May 1. Overall cases are up more than 93 per cent in a fortnight.
Blackburn with Darwen in Lancashire recorded 149 new cases in the week to May 8, and 52 the week before that – an increase of 86 per cent in two weeks.
The five areas with the biggest week-on-week rises in England to May 8, according to PA, are:
- Erewash (up from 28.6 cases per 100,000 people to 205.4)
- Bolton (83.5 to 162.4)
- Blackburn with Darwen (53.4 to 99.5)
- Bedford (38.7 to 71.6)
- Sefton (25.7 to 52.1)
Public health officials have told people living in areas of hotspots to be extra cautious.
Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, told the Downing Street briefing last Friday: “We really do want people to be extra cautious.
“We are encouraging people to continue working from home … socialise outdoors even if the situation abnd the rules change – it is really important people continue to do that.
“This is likely to be a bit of a pattern as we go forward, so we need the public to do everything that they have been doing in sticking to the rules, but in those particular areas to be particularly careful.”
England’s chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty also admitted on Monday’s briefing that the UK must be “very careful” about the new variant.
It comes as customers of a popular Tyneside bar have been asked to take a Covid-19 test after a case of the Indian variant was linked to the premises.
Anyone who visited Allard's Lounge in Tynemouth between April 23 and May 3 has been urged to book a PCR test.
Public Health England and North Tyneside Council said "one of the cases in an outbreak linked to the premises has been identified as having the Indian variant".
North Tyneside director of public health Wendy Burke reassured people that coronavirus levels remained the lowest they have been since September.
She said: "We want to ensure we keep it that way and especially as we move to the next stage of the road map, with restrictions set to ease again on 17 May and allow for indoor mixing."
Some experts have called for the easing of lockdown to be halted while the variant is studied closely.
The Government consider a range of factors when deciding whether to go ahead with the next step of the lockdown exit roadmap.
One of these is new variants which have the potential to evade vaccines
Prof Christina Pagel said the roadmap should “absolutely” be slowed until “'we either know for sure it's not more transmissible or vaccine resistant, or we've stamped out the outbreaks or we've got further in the vaccine programme”.
Writing on Twitter last Friday, she said: “Ignoring problems when they're 'small' has been one of the MOST damaging things this whole pandemic.
“Numbers still low(ish) but for how much longer? What will happen after 17th May when so much more opens?”
One professor – Prof Tom Wenseleers,bevolutionary biology at the University of Leuven, Belgium – says his research shows B.1.617.2 is up to 60 per cent more transmissible than the Kent variant.
But so far, it is expected that vaccines will manage to suppress any severe disease and therefore hospitalisations and deaths.
Prof Whitty said on Monday night the variant is less likely to escape immunity when compared to some other variants – particularly the South African variant.
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