As the UK emerges from lockdown measures, several areas across the country have seen surges in coronavirus cases. This is due to the highly transmissible B.1.617.1 or Indian variant, which is causing concern among local leaders and triggering intensified vaccination efforts.
Several areas have seen increased Covid cases in recent weeks, with new guidelines introduced for affected areas.
Bolton in Greater Manchester continues to have the highest rate, with 1,296 new cases in the seven days to May 20 – the equivalent of 450.7 cases per 100,000 people.
This is up from 282.4 in the seven days to May 13.
Blackburn with Darwen in Lancashire has the second-highest rate, up from 114.2 to 280.6, with 420 new cases.
Bedford has the third-highest, up from 122.9 to 187.0, with 324 new cases.
Read More: Indian Covid variant update: ‘Vaccines effective against all variants’
The Indian variant hot spots covered by the new guidelines are:
- Bedford Borough Council
- Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council
- Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council
- Burnley Borough Council
- Kirklees Council
- Leicester City Council
- London Borough of Hounslow
- North Tyneside Council
The new advice has been issued for the worst-hit areas, with people told to meet outdoors wherever possible and not to travel outside of affected areas.
Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council deputy leader Councillor Phil Riley said he was suprised the government has issued this advice, given the nature of the cases concerned.
He said: “While the numbers are increasing, all the evidence is that the cases are very much concentrated amongst teenagers and young people.
“That is what we expected because clearly the vaccine hasn’t arrived there yet.”
He added: “The overwhelming majority of cases are in schools and educational settings while the number of critical cases in hospitals are much reduced from what we’ve seen previously.
“So I am very suprised that the government has decided on this course of action.”
The government says anyone in the listed areas should:
- Meet outside instead of inside where possible
- Keep two metres apart from people that they don’t live with (unless they have formed a support bubble with them), this includes friends and family they don’t live with
- Avoid travelling in and out of affected areas unless it is essential, for example for work (if they cannot work from home) or education
Those living in Blackburn with Darwen and Burnley should also:
- Get tested twice a week for free and isolate if they are positive
- Continue to work from home if they can
- Get vaccinated when they are offered it, and encourage others to do so as well
Now an announcement from Boris Johnson on the latest lockdown restrictions has been delayed.
Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said on Monday the review of social distancing rules would be published “as soon as possible based on the latest data, which will help inform us what measures we can take around certification”.
When asked why there was a delay from the initial plan the spokesman said: “I think it’s reasonable for a new variant such as this and the need to gather as much data as possible to inform our decisions.
“It’s right to take the time to get that information before making those final decisions.”