The Indian Covid variant has already overtaken the Kent strain in 23 English local authorities and has spread to 40 per cent of the country, positive test data revealed today as Boris Johnson desperately tried to play down fears that the June 21 ‘freedom day’ could be ditched because of the strain.
Analysis of samples from people infected with Covid has revealed that by the week ending May 8, the variant accounted for eight in 10 cases in hotspots Bolton, Blackburn with Darwen, Sefton and Bedford, as well as in Chelmsford in Essex and Croydon in London. Data suggests it is also dominant – accounting for more than half of all positive tests – in Nottingham, West Lancashire, Stevenage, Oadby and Wigston, South Northamptonshire, Broxbourne, Hillingdon, Brent, Camden, Hounslow, Greenwich, Bromley, Dartford, Sevenoaks, Canterbury, Rushmoor and Hart.
Despite the worrying development, the Prime Minister stressed that the roadmap out of lockdown is currently unchanged with the government sifting through emerging data about the fast-spreading strain. But he appeared to shift his language slightly by saying there is not yet ‘conclusive’ evidence that the roadmap will need to be altered and said things would be clearer in a ‘few days’.
‘We are looking at the epidemiology the whole time as it comes in and, at the moment, partly because we have built up such a wall of defences with the vaccination programme, I don’t see anything conclusive at the moment to say that we need to deviate from the road map,’ he said. ‘But we’ve got to be cautious and we are keeping everything under very close observation. We’ll know a lot more in a few days’ time.’
The Department of Health today counted another 2,412 positive tests and seven deaths, with fatalities falling 65 per cent from last Tuesday and cases down 2.5 per cent. Another 106,733 people got first vaccine doses yesterday along with 259,049 second doses, meaning more than 36.8million Britons have had at least one jab and 20.5million are fully vaccinated.