An interactive map today revealed where the Indian Covid variant is spreading fastest after data showed it was dominant in more than 100 local authorities in England.
The mutant strain had overtaken the Kent variant in 102 out of 315 areas in the country (34 per cent) by May 22, the most recent date for which data is available.
MailOnline’s analysis shows it was also spotted in a total of 206 authorities (65 per cent) by that date and is likely to have spread even further in the past week.
UK Government scientists believe the Indian variant is at least 20 per cent more infectious than the Kent variant that sparked the devastating second wave, which itself was much more virulent than the original virus that emerged in China.
Just 29 local authorities were detecting cases of the mutant strain in the middle of April, the data from the Sanger Institute – one of Britain’s largest variant-tracking labs – shows. But over the following five weeks this spiralled seven-fold, as it advanced from strongholds in London and the North West into the South East, South West and parts of the Midlands.
The Indian strain – which was titled ‘Covid Delta’ by the World Health Organization today in an effort to remove geographical stigmas – is now behind at least three in five infections in Britain and now nationally makes up more cases than the Kent one.
Boris Johnson today faced mounting pressure over June 21 Freedom Day with some scientists warning he would have to ‘carry the can’ for a ‘bad decision’ — comparing the Indian variant to a ‘volcano’ that could engulf the country.
But other scientists say vaccines — which studies show protect against mutant strains — are providing strong protection to the most vulnerable. They added Covid is only a mild disease among young people, who are making up the bulk of new infections and are yet to be offered their first dose.
MailOnline analysis shows Covid hospital admissions are slowly creeping up across England but nearly half of all trusts are still completely empty despite fears about the Indian strain.
MAY 22: This map shows the local authorities where the Indian variant was the dominant strain — made up the majority of cases — by the number of infections with the mutant strain detected in their areas. It is for the two weeks to May 22. Areas coloured red had more than 50 cases, orange between 10 and 49 cases, and yellow had fewer than 10 cases
MAY 8: This map shows local authorities where the Indian variant was dominant in for the two weeks to May 8, two weeks before the data displayed in the second map which is the latest available. Areas coloured red had more than 50 cases, orange between 10 and 49 cases, and yellow had fewer than 10 cases
Indian variant cases in England’s 12 hotspots are shown (red) compared to the Kent variant (orange). The new strain has gone on to become dominant in all 12 of the above areas – and more than 100 in total – since cropping up for the first time in April. It is believed to be a fifth more infectious than the Kent variant which is propelling its spread
Data from the Wellcome Sanger Institute in London, which analyses the spread of different variants, shows that in the later weeks of May the number of positive tests that were caused by the Indian variant (light blue line) overtook those caused by the Kent variant (purple line), which had been dominant since last winter
Despite fears about the Indian variant, nearly half of all trusts are still completely empty, official figures have revealed. Graph shows: Just one NHS trust in England had more than four per cent of its beds occupied by sufferers of the virus in the most recent week data is available for (week ending May 23) [Percentage on the right shows the change in patient numbers in a week]
The Sanger Institute’s figures do not include infections picked up through surge testing and in travellers, meaning they reflect which troublesome strains of the virus are spreading in the community.
The proportions are based on the number of Indian variant cases compared to other variants identified over the two weeks to May 22. Local authorities with no cases of the variant either had no cases identified from this particular strain or no data available.
The interactive map has been presented by lower tier local authority, which splits up larger counties into smaller regions. For example, Suffolk has been divided into East Suffolk, Ipswich, Mid-Suffolk, Babergh and West Suffolk.
Scientists can find out which variant is behind an infection by analysing a swab in a lab for key mutations.
Bolton had the most Covid cases in England over the two weeks to May 22, after recording 1,517, with the new strain making up more than nine in 10 of the 1,663 positive tests.
It was followed by Blackburn with Darwen (497 cases or 95 per cent), Bedford (426 cases or 87.3 per cent), Leicester (216 or 71 per cent) and central Manchester (178 cases or 47 per cent).
But 147 local authorities where the variant was detected had less than ten cases — including Southwark, Sevenoaks and Bassetlaw — and about a third of these had just one case.
There were 86 local authorities across England where the mutant strain was not detected yet, mostly in rural areas of the South West, home counties and North East.
The Prime Minister has been coming under mounting pressure to consider delaying or watering down the end of all lockdown curbs on June 21 because of fears the Indian variant is so infectious it will eventually reach unvaccinated and vulnerable people.
There are still about 5million over-50s who haven’t been double jabbed, and studies have shown that while two doses of the vaccines are highly effective against the strain, one dose is less so.
The number of daily positive tests in Britain has now been above 3,000 for six days in a row meaning the average has risen again after dipping to an eight-month low of just 2,000 per day at the start of May
The number of people dying of Covid each day in Britain remains extremely low, at an average of eight per day. It is hoped that vaccines will prevent this from rising significantly again even if cases take off
An average of 124 people get admitted to hospital with coronavirus each day in the UK, down from over 4,000 a day at the height of the second wave but up from a low of 77 earlier this month
Professor Adam Finn, a vaccinologist and member of the Government’s JCVI, said today: ‘We’ve still got a lot of people out there who’ve neither had this virus… nor yet been immunised, and that’s why we’re in a vulnerable position right now.’
He added: ‘The truth is that a more infectious virus, which is what it looks like we’ve got, will reach people who are vulnerable – those who did not make a good response to the vaccine, those who have not yet had their doses – and that will be a problem for everyone because in the end it will be worse economically as well as for public health if we end up having to shut down again.’
Covid hospital admissions are creeping up across England… but nearly HALF of trusts are still completely empty of the virus despite Indian variant fears
Covid hospital admissions are slowly creeping up across England but nearly half of all trusts are still completely empty, official figures have revealed.
MailOnline’s analysis of the latest NHS England data shows more than half of hospital trusts saw the average number of Covid patients in beds rise in the week ending May 23.
But the numbers are still extremely low, with just one trust having more than four per cent of its beds – one in 20 – occupied by people with the virus.
For comparison, 27 trusts out of the total 131 had more than 40 per cent of their beds taken up at the peak of the second wave in late January.
Indian variant hotspot Bolton — which has now seen cases slow down and Blackburn with Darwen overtake it as the worst affected area in the country — had five per cent of its capacity taken up by Covid patients, on average, in the week ending May 23, after an outbreak of the mutant strain put 25 more people in hospital.
And the number of inpatients in Bolton is reported to have dropped since the most recent official data, with the Health Service Journal reporting there were 43 by this morning, down from 49 last Thursday.
Of the 93 trusts where Covid hospitalisations increased in the most recent week, just 18 recorded double-digit inpatient numbers.
Just three of the eight Indian variant hotspots identified by the Government recorded double-digit numbers during the week — Bolton, Blackburn and Burnley. Blackburn and Burnley both come under the East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, which had an average of 10 Covid patients taking beds during the week.
Experts said the promising data indicated that vaccines are keeping people out of hospitals even if they are infected with the Indian variant, which is spreading rapidly in pockets of the country.
Asked whether the easing on June 21 should go ahead, Professor Finn told LBC radio: ‘I fear it may be a bad decision to go with it.’
He added: ‘Scientists advise but they don’t decide, and ultimately the politicians have to carry the can for whatever decisions are made.’
But other scientists claim the fears are being exaggerated because the Government is on track to jab all over-50s by the middle of this month.
Professor Robert Dingwall, a sociologist at Nottingham Trent University, said scientists suggesting June 21 easings should be delayed ‘can’t even agree on what delay they’d like’.
He said the virus was now spreading predominantly in younger people for whom the disease causes mild illness, and pro-lockdown experts had failed to take this into account.
Professor Dingwall warned the economy and non-Covid healthcare would continue to suffer if the unlocking does not go ahead.
Others said there was ‘no logical reason’ not to ditch social distancing curbs as planned later this month.
‘(The virus) is really running into younger age groups who are intrinsically at much lower risk,’ Professor Dingwall told Times Radio.
‘Many of the scientists who’ve been talking over the weekend simply haven’t adjusted their expectations to understand that — for these people Covid is a mild illness in the community.
‘As the Director of Public Health for Bolton said last week, the people who are going into hospital… it’s not like January, these are not desperately ill people.
‘They’re people who need a little bit of extra support with oxygen, they need access to the dexamethasone treatment, which is very effective.
‘They go in, stay in hospital for three or four days and they go out again.
‘There is no realistic prospect of the NHS facing the sports of pressures that it faced in January and February. And that’s why I think we have to push on with this.’
He told Times Radio: ‘By the time we get to June 21, everybody who is in the nine priority groups or the highest risk will have had both jabs, and would have had a period of time to consolidate the immunity.
Professor Tony Brookes, a health data scientist at Leicester University, told MailOnline there was no reason to delay June 21 so long as the vaccine programme kept pace.
‘The focus should be on those who are not vaccinated, which are now people who are vulnerable and have chosen not to be vaccinated and the young,’ he said.
‘We know that this disease in the young is essentially trivial. Even Patrick Vallance said right from the start the vast majority of people will have this will just have a mild illness.
‘And that’s fact. In the young it has always been less severe than flu in the old, and that remains the case.
‘So no, I cannot see any logical reason for not just proceeding as intended (with unlocking).’
He claimed data suggested local outbreaks of the Indian variant were likely to peak and fall in the coming weeks.
Indian variant hotspots Bolton and Bedford are both seeing cases start to fall, while the rise has slowed in other areas.
‘My best guess on everything is that I would expect there to be a clear plateau, and for cases to be on their way down within the next two weeks,’ he told MailOnline.
‘If I’m wrong and it spikes to higher levels, this will not have major health consequences (because of vaccines).’
WHERE HAD THE INDIAN VARIANT BEEN SPOTTED IN ENGLAND BY MAY 22?
B.1.617.2, April 3 to May 8