Matt Hancock challenged by Sky News host over Indian variant
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The Delta variant is now attributed to 43,323 cases of Covid, meaning it accounts for more than 90 percent of newly confirmed cases in the country. A further 29,892 Delta infections were recorded in the seven days to June 9, up 140 percent from 12,431 the week before, according to Public Health England (PHE). The public health body said data suggests the Delta variant has a 60 percent increased likelihood of spreading in homes compared to the Alpha strain, first detected in Kent.
The figures add to mounting speculation and concern that lockdown easing planned on June 21 will have to be delayed.
The last point of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap could be delayed for up to one month to allow more time for people to be fully vaccinated.
Discussions are reportedly being held within Government to decide if a two-week or four-week delay should be implemented.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is claimed to have accepted a four-week delay in lockdown easing, having made provisions for this worst case scenario in his March Budget.
However, the increasing rate in infections is not accompanied by a spike in hospital admissions this time around.
PHE said despite Covid Delta cases rising from 12,431 to 42,323 in one week, it’s “encouraging” to see this isn’t “yet accompanied by a similarly large increase in hospitalisations”.
The medical body said this suggests the vaccine rollout is mitigating the impact of the variant, with Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency Dr Jenny Harries saying “vaccination is our best defence”.
Dr Harries 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.”
According to the latest Government figures, some parts of the country are more adversely affected than others.
Scotland is the worst-hit out of the home nations with a Covid rate of 96,5 of every 100,000 people, ahead of England on 50.3.
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Northern Ireland is next on 27.3 while Wales lags behind continuing to report lower rates with an overall figure of 14.7.
Most of the significant infection spikes can be found in England, particularly in the north west which has been targeted with unique measures to stop the spread of Delta.
The highest rate of new cases can be found in Blackburn with Darwen, at 582.3 per 100,000 people following by Rossendale on 323.2, Bolton on 310.6 and Burnley’s 2887.9.
A host of other lower-tier authorities within the region have rates above 200, including Preston, Ribble Valley, Hyndburn and much of Greater Manchester.
Mendip in Somerset is the UK’s least affected area with just 2.6 cases per 100,000, with Merthyr Tydfil in south Wales on 3.3.
The Government is expected to decide on Monday whether or not they will proceed with the easing of lockdown restrictions on June 21.
Ministers are reportedly considering numerous potential alternatives to a full reopening on June 21, with the Prime Minister believed to be in favour of tweaking restrictions rather than fully pushing the date back.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he “wouldn’t rule out” extending measures like face coverings and working from hope where possible into the long term.
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