Cases of the Delta variant of coronavirus have more than tripled in a week with 42 people now confirmed to have died after testing positive for the variant, 12 of whom had had both vaccines doses.
Public Health England (PHE) said that as of Wednesday, the UK has seen 42,323 confirmed cases of the B.1.617.2 variant first identified in India, up 29,892 from 12,431 a week ago, and an increase of 240%. PHE said this has been partly driven by a reduction in test turnaround times, and a faster process for identifying cases of the variant.
The figures are a further blow to Boris Johnson’s plan to lift lockdown on 21 June.
The prime minister is set to make an announcement on Monday, and a delay to the full lifting of restrictions is looking increasingly likely. PHE said research indicates the Delta variant has a 60% increased risk of household transmission compared to the previously-dominant Alpha variant first identified in Kent, which caused the UK’s winter crisis of infections, hospital admissions and deaths
Researchers added it is “encouraging” the huge increase in Delta variant case numbers has not yet translated into a similar increase in hospitalisations. Of 383 people admitted to hospital with the Delta variant, 251 were unvaccinated, 66 were more than 21 days after their first dose and 42 were more than 14 days after their second dose.
As of 7 June, there had been 42 deaths of people who had tested positive with the variant. Of these, 12 were more than 14 days after their second dose.