The Delta variant’s rapid march across the country has continued this week (Picture: PA)
The Delta variant is continuing to spread rapidly across the country as health officials confirm they are watching two new mutations of the virus.
New data shows the variant first spotted in India now makes up 99% of all sequenced cases in England, with a further 54,268 recorded this week.
Health secretary Sajid Javid has warned there could be 100,000 cases a day this summer after restrictions ease on July 19, prompting one scientist advising the government to warn the country could become a ‘vaccine factory’.
Experts writing in The Lancet said Boris Johnson’s strategy ‘provides fertile ground for the emergence of vaccine-resistant variants’.
There are four ‘variants of concern’ in the UK and a further nine ‘variants under investigation’, with several other possible mutations being monitored.
The two new variants being watched are similar to the Iota variant which was first spotted in New York late last year but have not been deemed a significant risk domestically yet.
Public Health England experts say ‘additional spike mutations are occurring on Delta but are present at relatively low frequencies’ both at home and abroad.
Public Health England are concerned about four variants and are watching another nine with interest (Picture: PA)
In late June, the health department boasted the UK is a world leader in genomics and estimated half of all the sequencing done globally happens in UK labs.
But PHE has warned that while the number of sequences being carried out has been maintained, the ‘coverage’ they provide has fallen because cases are continuing to increase.
There is also growing concern globally about the Lambda variant which was first spotted in Peru in August.
Some experts fear new variants will arise in the UK when restrictions are eased on July 19 (Picture: AFP)
The mutated virus spread rapidly in the South American country – it now makes up more than 80% of cases in Peru – and has gained a foothold in neighbouring nations.
There have been eight confirmed cases in the UK so far and it has been described as having an ‘unusual set of mutations, compared with other variants’ fuelling fears it could be more transmissible or vaccine resistant.
For the first time PHE has produced a separate risk assessment for the Lamda variant even though little is known about it yet, a sign health officials are taking the threat it may pose seriously.
There have been 44 cases of the variant dubbed ‘Delta plus’ found in the UK so far and PHE say ‘further investigation’ of the mutation is under way.
Public Health England has began publishing separate risk reports for the Lambda variant which ripped through Peru and has been identified in low numbers in the UK (Picture: AFP)
Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said: ‘The data continues to show that the sharp increase in cases that we are seeing is not being followed by a similar increase in hospitalisation and death.
‘This is because 2 doses of the available vaccines offer a high level of protection against the Delta variant.
‘Getting both jabs is the best way to ensure you and the people you love remain safe, so we once again urge everyone to come forward as soon as they are eligible.
‘As we approach the planned end of restrictions, we must remain cautious and careful.
‘Cases are rising across the country, and whilst the vaccines offer excellent protection, they do not offer 100% protection. Be sensible, and follow “hands, face, space, fresh air” at all times and make sure to get tested if required.’
Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more stories like this, check our news page.
The Insidexpress is now on Telegram and Google News. Join us on Telegram and Google News, and stay updated.