UK cases of the Delta variant of Covid-19 have risen almost four-fold in less than a month, new data shows.
Public Health England figures show a total of 161,981 confirmed and probable cases of Delta variant have now been identified in the UK – up by 50,824, or 46%, on the previous week.
Of the 161,981 cases, 148,538 have been in England, 10,185 in Scotland, 1,749 in Wales and 1,509 in Northern Ireland.
The Delta variant, which was first identified in India, continues to account for approximately 95% of confirmed cases of coronavirus across the UK.
On June 9, there were 42,323 confirmed and probable cases. The latest figure of 161,981, as of June 30, is nearly four times as high.
Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist from the University of Warwick, said: “This data is important to consider in the decision to open up on the 19th July.
“We may have weakened the link between infections, hospitalisations and deaths but this significant increase in infections with the Delta variant raises serious concerns.
“As the virus continues to spread in those who are unvaccinated or have only received one jab, it will result in more disease, including increasing the burden of long Covid.
“We are already seeing some of those who have been fully vaccinated getting infected and some of those become sick.
“And there is another worry – that as the virus spreads it will continue to generate new variants, increasing the risk that one will pop up that is more vaccine-resistant.”
Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said: “Cases across the UK continue to rise and it is incredibly important that we do not forget to be careful.
“The best thing we can do to protect ourselves and the people we love is to get the vaccine if eligible, get tested twice a week and practise ‘hands, face, space, fresh air’ at all times.
“Although cases are rising, we are not seeing a proportional rise in the number of people who are being admitted to hospital.
“The data suggest this is testament to the success of the vaccination programme so far and clearly demonstrates the importance of getting both doses of the vaccine.”
It comes as new Office for National Statistics (ONS) data shows a rise in the number of people in England with Covid-19.
Around one in 260 people in private households in England had Covid in the week to June 26 – up from one in 440 in the previous week.
This is the highest level since the week to February 27.