Covid-19 case rates are rising in more local areas of the UK than at any point since early January, with numbers increasing in almost all parts of north-west England, London and Scotland, new analysis shows.
The figures come as British health secretary Matt Hancock indicated ministers at Westminster were open to delaying the easing of restrictions in England scheduled for June 21st, while the Scottish government has paused a relaxing of rules in parts of central Scotland.
The rise in rates has yet to be mirrored by a steady increase in Covid-19 hospital cases, however, with the latest data showing patient numbers have climbed slightly to levels last seen at the end of May.
Nearly three-quarters of local areas of the UK (283 out of 380) recorded a week-on-week rise in Covid-19 case rates for the seven days to June 2nd.
This is the highest proportion since January 6th.
In just under half of these places (134), the rise was small enough to be in single figures.
But a growing number of areas are recording sharp jumps in rates, some of them large enough to push them above the symbolic level of 100 cases per 100,000 people.
When using a seven-day average to flatten out fluctuations in the data, 256 of 380 local areas in the UK are currently recording a rise in rates — the highest number since January 10th.
The analysis has been compiled by the PA news agency using Public Health England data published on Sunday on the government’s coronavirus dashboard.
The rise in rates in these and other areas is being driven partly by surge testing to detect cases of the Covid-19 variant that originated in India, also known as the Delta variant.
Pressed on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday over whether the June 21st easing of restrictions in England could be postponed, Mr Hancock said: “We are absolutely open to doing that if that’s what needs to happen.”
He suggested that the delta variant was up to 40 per cent more transmissible than the strain first identified in Kent (alpha) — but that vaccines were “working” and that “very few” people who had been fully vaccinated were ending up in hospital. – PA