According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), community coronavirus cases skyrocketed by 76.5 percent in just one week in England. Some 85,600 people are estimated to have been infected with COVID-19 in the week to May 29, the highest level since the week to April 16, as the Delta (formerly called the Indian) variant continues spreading like wildfire.
These figures mark a drastic uptick in cases, with 48,500 people estimated to be infected in the week prior, making this a 76.5 percent increase.
Areas that appear to be hardest hit are the North West, the East Midlands and South West.
There are also signs of a possible increase in the West Midlands and London. The trend is uncertain for other regions, the ONS said.
The North West had the highest proportion of people of any region in England likely to test positive for coronavirus in the week to 29 May – around one in 280.
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South East England had the lowest estimate – around one in 1,490.
Separate data suggested England’s R number had risen slightly to between 1 and 1.2, compared to between 1 and 1.1 last week.
The increase in cases is largely being attributed to highly contagious new variants, with the Delta variant causing the most concern currently.
However, there is emerging evidence that while cases may be on the rise, the number of people getting seriously ill with the new variant is low thanks to the high uptake of the vaccine.
In Bolton, which has one of the highest case rates for the Delta variant in the country, NHS bosses have said the vaccine appears to have “broken the chain” between the virus and severe illness.
Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, told the BBC that many of those in hospital in Bolton are younger than in previous waves of the pandemic, indicating that people who have been vaccinated are being protected.
He said: “The people who came in this time around were actually a lot younger and were a lot less at risk of very serious complication, less at risk of death, and what that means is that they were less demand on critical care.
“What we think we can start to say now, based on that experience, is that it does look as though the vaccines have broken the chain between catching COVID-19 and potentially being very, very seriously ill and potentially dying.
“There were very, very few people who have had those double jabs and had been able to have that build-up of protection after those jabs.”
However, he warned that COVID hospital admissions are rising, although not as significantly as in January.
He said: “Infection rates have been increasing in a number of different places.
“We know that the hospitalisations are increasing, the rates of people coming into hospital in those areas are rising.
“But they are not rising very significantly.”
The UK has administered a total of 66.7 million doses of the vaccine, with 26.8 million people fully vaccinated – more than 40 percent of the population.
Despite the success of the vaccine rollout, all the data will be considered by the Prime Minister as he decides on whether to drop the last coronavirus lockdown restrictions on 21 June.
Last week, Boris Johnson said there was still “nothing in the data at the moment that means we cannot go ahead with Step 4” of lifting restrictions on June 21, but added, “we’ve got to be so cautious”.
He said: “What we need to work out is to what extent the vaccination programme has protected enough of us, particularly the elderly and vulnerable, against a new surge, and there I’m afraid the data is still ambiguous.
“The best the scientists can say at the moment is we just need to give it a little bit longer.
“I’m sorry that’s frustrating for people, I know that people want a clear answer about the way ahead for June 21st.
“But at the moment we’ve just got to wait a little longer.”