UK daily Covid cases have passed 8,000 for the first time in four months – as the Indian variant continues to spread.
There were 8,125 new cases recorded in the past 24 hours, while there were 17 deaths from the bug in the same timeframe.
Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest updates
The last time cases surpassed 8,000 was on February 26 this year, when there were it was 8,523.
Cases in the UK on Wednesday rose by 7,540 – the highest leap in daily infections since February.
This was followed by an increase of 7,393 yesterday.
Last Thursday, there were 18 deaths recorded over a 24-hour period.
Cases of the Indian variant have more than tripled in a week – with 42,323 confirmed cases of the B.1.617.2 strain this week, up from 12,431 one week ago.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said yesterday that the Indian Covid variant now makes up around 91 per cent of all cases in the UK – as fears over the June 21 lockdown lift grow.
The spread has meant that surge testing and increased vaccine capacity has been rolled out in the UK.
It comes as:
- Hopeful Covid hospital data suggests we should come out of lockdown on June 21
- The June 21 ‘Freedom Day’ end to Covid restrictions may be delayed for a month so Brits can receive two vaccinations
- Brits must be “really careful” not to “squander hard-fought gains”, a minister has warned
- The UK economy grew 2.3 per cent in April as lockdown restrictions eased
- Theresa May blasts ‘chaotic and incomprehensible’ holidays ban despite world-beating vaccine rollout
- Matt Hancock admitted the first lockdown was delayed – despite warnings one million might die
- The Indian – or Delta – strain is up to 60 per cent more infectious, experts say
Boris Johnson is set to announce on Monday if England’s Step 4 to ease restrictions can go ahead on “Freedom Day”, currently pencilled in for June 21.
The Government is currently weighing up the move amid fears over the spread of the Delta strain.
A final end to England’s restrictions may be pushed back by between two to four weeks to give businesses “certainty”, The Times reports.
The government is monitoring if its spread leads to a further surge in hospitalisations and infections.
Ministers fear a two-week postponement of the June 21 date may have to be extended.
But a four-week delay would allow more people to be double jabbed and give them better protection from the Indian variant.
A source told The Times: “This is about giving people certainty.
“The worst-case scenario is that we ease restrictions and then have to implement them again.
“This has to be a one-way ticket.”
Some government scientific advisers insist delaying by a month would give the vaccine a chance to catch up with the Indian variant.
The Delta variant is feared to be up to 60 per cent more transmissible than the Kent – or Alpha – variant.