Hounslow, London, which has become one of the U.K.'s biggest hotspots for the variant of coronavirus first identified in India, on Thursday 27th May 2021.
Tejas Sandhu | MI News | NurPhoto | Getty Images
Cases of the Covid-19 variant first identified in India have more than doubled in England within one week, the country's health authority said on Thursday.
The number of cases of the strain had reached 6,959 by May 26, an increase of 3,535 cases from the previous week.
The B.1.617.2 variant, a highly contagious triple-mutant strain of the coronavirus, is likely to be more transmissible than the variant first identified in England last fall, Public Health England said.
Bolton, Bedford and Blackburn are currently the most affected areas in England, according to PHE, although it said there were small numbers of cases of the variant in most parts of the country.
Hospitalizations were also rising in some areas, PHE added, noting that most hospital admissions were in unvaccinated people.
Research published by PHE last week showed that two doses of Covid-19 vaccines gives people high levels of protection against the B.1.617.2 strain.
Jenny Harries, CEO of the U.K. Health Security Agency, said in PHE's weekly update that the public should continue to act with caution as Britain eases lockdown restrictions.
"We now know that getting both vaccine doses gives a high degree of protection against this variant and we urge everyone to have the vaccine," she said.
"Make sure that you remain careful, work from home if you can, meet people outside where possible and remember 'hands, face, space, fresh air' at all times."
The U.K. has begun to tentatively lift lockdown restrictions in recent months, with the government hoping to remove all measures by June 21.
However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned that the country "may need to wait" for a complete return to normality, although he told the BBC on Thursday there was nothing "currently in the data" to suggest the June unlocking would be derailed.
Johnson announced earlier this month that the U.K. would accelerate second vaccine doses for the over-50s and clinically vulnerable in an effort to combat the spread of the B.1.617.2 strain.
More than 62.6 million vaccines had been given in the U.K. by May 26, with 73% of the adult population having received their first dose. Almost half of British adults have been fully vaccinated with both doses.
On May 22, 883 people were in hospital with Covid-19 in the U.K. — a huge drop from January's peak of 39,249.