As Britain opens up and puts the worst of the pandemic behind it, a disturbing trend has dampened the optimistic mood.
Cases of the Indian coronavirus variant have risen by 152 per cent in the UK in the space of a week.
New figures from Public Health England (PHE) revealed on Wednesday (local time) there were 1,313 confirmed cases involving the B.1.617.2 variant, which was first identified in India, and labelled as a variant of global concern this week by the World Health Organisation.
That's up 793 from 520 last week – demonstrating why some scientists and ministers in the UK are increasingly concerned about its spread within their own borders.
It comes as Boris Johnson hinted at the possibility of local lockdowns to contain the strain.
Speaking on Thursday, the prime minister admitted he is "anxious" about the variant and said he's "ruling nothing out".
UK considering more Covid lockdowns
Asked if local lockdowns were possible, Johnson said: “There are a range of things we could do, we want to make sure we grip it."
"At the moment, I can see nothing that dissuades me from thinking we will be able to go ahead on Monday [with the third easing of lockdown restrictions] and indeed on 21 June [when the government wants to drop all restrictions on social contact]," he said.
"But there may be things we have to do locally, and we will not hesitate to do them if that is the advice we get.”
With the skyrocketing death rate recorded during India's second coronavirus wave, there has been growing concern over the transmissibility of the variant.
Britain's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) held a meeting to discuss the variant's spread, amid fears it could have an impact on the England's roadmap out of lockdown.
There is currently no solid data about the impact the B.1.617.2 variant may have on vaccines, though health officials are optimistic.
“At this point in time our view is it is less likely to be able to escape vaccination than some of the other variants, particularly the South African one," England’s chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty said this week.
with Yahoo News UK
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