A total of 2,323 cases of the Indian Covid variant have now been found in England, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced today and figures show it now accounts for at least one in five infections

A total of 2,323 cases of the Indian Covid variant have now been found in England, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced today and figures show it now accounts for at least one in five infections. <br>Mr Hancock said in a statement to Parliament today that 483 of the cases were in Bolton and Blackburn and it was  now dominant there, with cases rising in all age groups as they battle to stem a tide of cases. <br>Eight people are in hospital with the virus in Blackburn, where admissions are 'stable', the Health Secretary said, but there are now 19 people in Bolton hospitals.

He said the resurgence of the virus emphasised the importance of getting a jab for people of all ages but that the cases were 'not tending to penetrate into older age groups'.    <br>To help boost the vaccine rollout NHS England will tomorrow widen the jab rollout so 36- and 37-year-olds can book a jab, pulling the programme down into the mid-30s for the first time. <br>Fears about the variant sparking a third wave of infections tainted today's lockdown-easing, which saw pubs and restaurant reopen indoors and home visits and international travel back on the cards. <br>Rifts are opening up between ministers and scientists over whether it will be safe to end lockdown as planned on June 21 with top SAGE advisers today admitting they won't be enjoying new-found freedoms, which saw pubs and restaurants reopen indoors and home visits back on the cards, because of the threat of a huge spike in cases. <br>Local outbreaks of the alarming new B1617.2 variant have sprung up in Bolton, Blackburn, Sefton in Merseyside, Bedford, Nottingham and Leicester.<br>Downing Street has admitted the full end of lockdown, scheduled for June 21, could be thrown off course by the variant which could cause a huge spike in infections and hospital admissions in the summer.  <br>Boris Johnson has urged people to adopt a 'heavy dose of caution' after lockdown loosened and a Cabinet colleague encouraged revellers to avoid 'excessive drinking' with ministers at loggerheads over whether to extend lockdown to battle the strain. The vaccine programme will now go full pace in a bid to try and protect people from the variant, with jabs the last line of defence now that lockdown has all but ended.  <br>At the most recent count the Sanger Institute in London, which is analysing the variants in positive tests, found the Indian variant now makes up 20 per cent of all cases, showing it is edging out the Kent variant, now at 78 per cent. <br>But only Sefton is keeping pace with the national vaccine rollout, having got at least one dose to 86 per cent of over-40s, while the England average is 83 per cent.<br>The five other areas are behind on the measure and Nottingham had reached only 74 per cent of eligible adults by May 9, with only 75 per cent in Leicester.<br>All but Sefton are also below the national average on getting two doses to everyone over the age of 70 (90 per cent) and four out of the six are behind on the proportion of over-50s to have had both doses.<br>Although figures suggest low vaccine rates aren't causing high rates - most cases are in young adults - they will raise concerns that outbreaks could quickly turn deadly if older people aren't protected. Eighteen people are reported to have been hospitalised with the variant in Bolton, with 'the majority' of them not fully vaccinated.<br>Britain's daily coronavirus cases have fallen by 16 per cent in a week while deaths remain steady, official figures revealed today.<br>Department of Health statistics showed 1,979 infections were spotted over the last 24 hours, down on last Monday.

A further five fatalities were registered, one more than the same time last week.<br> ‹ Slide me › Data from the Sanger Institute show that there were no cases of the India variant detected in England on March 13 (left), and by May 8 (right) it had spread to dozens of local authorities all over the country and been spotted in hundreds of people<br> At the most recent count the Sanger Institute in London, which is analysing the variants in positive tests, found the Indian variant now makes up 20 per cent of all cases (light green line in the bottom right), showing it is edging out the Kent variant, Slot Online - https://exchangeliveart.com/wp-slot.php now at 78 per cent (purple line at the top)<br> A heat map of where vaccine uptake is lowest shows that the same areas that have Indian variant cases - the North West, the Midlands and London - also have low vaccine uptake.

These are the most urban and most populated parts of the country, which are known to be worse affected by outbreaks and have been throughout the pandemic<br> NHS figures show that vaccine uptake among all over-40s, which is at 83 per cent average across England, is below average in all but one (Sefton) of the Indian variant hotspot areas.

Although experts do not think the at-risk older age groups are the ones driving outbreaks at the moment, it could be cause for concern if the virus spreads to them <br> more videos

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Members of the public in Bolton are pictured queueing for coronavirus vaccines after local health chiefs did away with NHS guidance and said any adult could get a jab - the Government has asked the council and NHS not to break from national policy<br> A Warwick University model of a more infectious variant after lockdown is completely lifted on June 21 suggests that any more than a 30 per cent increase in transmissibility compared to the Kent variant could lead to an August peak of daily hospital admissions that is higher than either the first or second wave.

In a worst-case scenario with a variant 50 per cent more transmissible, hospital admissions could surge to 10,000 per day or even double that  (Thick lines indicate the central estimate while the thin lines are possible upper limits known as confidence intervals)<br> Boris Johnson is pictured entering Downing Street today.

He has refused to rule out a return of local lockdowns if the Indian variant takes off in England<br>Health officials in Bolton have started a huge vaccination push in a bid to stop a surging outbreak there and got jabs to more than 9,000 people over the weekend.<br>London Mayor Sadiq Khan called for the same tactic to be used elsewhere but the Government is resisting the idea, insisting that areas keep going with the age-based system, which is now on people in their 30s and which ministers say has been 'very effective' so far.  <br>NHS England data for May 9 show that 81 per cent of people over the age of 40 in Bolton have had at least one vaccine dose, compared to 83 per cent across England.<br>The uptake is worse in nearby Blackburn where just 78 per cent of eligible people have got a jab.<br>Both have seen 88 per cent of over-70s get both their vaccines - slightly lower than the 90 per cent national average.<br>Public Health England figures showed last week that the number of people testing positive for coronavirus - for any variant - doubled in both Bolton and Blackburn between May 2 and May 9. <br>And data from the Sanger Institute suggests at least 573 of the cases were caused by the B1617.2 variant, with that strain making up 81 per cent of all cases in both areas.<br>A similar pattern emerged in Bedford, where positive tests doubled and the 99 cases found between April 25 and May 8 made up 81 per cent of all infections; and in Nottingham, which saw a 50 per cent increase with 60 Indian variant cases making up 58 per cent at the latest count. <br>Both Bedford and Nottingham are behind the national vaccine rollout in terms of first doses given to over-40s and second doses to over-50s.<br>Sefton in Merseyside is the outlier as one of the Indian variant hotspots but with a better-than-average immunisation programme.<br>Fears about the variant taking off have led to disagreements over whether vaccines should be given out more widely to try and increase protection in hard-hit areas that could see outbreaks worsen in the coming weeks.  <br>Downing Street today urged health officials not to extend the coronavirus vaccine rollout to younger people and to stick to the priority list advised by experts.<br>The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: 'This is a decision made by the JCVI about how best to deploy the vaccines we have, but we have deployed thousands more additional doses in Bolton so they can do this work of getting vaccinations to people.'<br>He added: 'We want every part of the country to abide by the advice set out by the JCVI, it's this unified approach that has allowed us to proceed so quickly with our vaccine rollout.'<br>Earlier in the day London Mayor Sadiq Khan and former prime minister Tony Blair had called for the opposite and want jabs targeted at hotspots and given to people of all ages to try and slow down the virus. <br>In Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea in London, only 58 per cent of all the eligible over-40s had taken up the offer of a vaccine by May 9 - fewer than anywhere else in England.<br>'What I'm saying to the Government is there are five boroughs in particular with high numbers of these cases,' Mr Khan told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.<br>'What we'd like to see is the vaccine being accelerated in these areas with younger Londoners receiving the vaccine sooner than other parts of London because the early evidence is it does appear that if you receive the vaccine, particularly both doses, you may be less likely to catch it.<br>'The spread is less but also the consequences should you test positive are less serious as well.'<br> <br> <br> <br> RELATED ARTICLES

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Tony Blair told Times Radio that the Government should 'absolutely' consider tweaking the rollout to cover younger people in high risk areas quicker.<br>He added: 'Taking a more varied approach to the way we do the vaccine rollout at this stage, given the problems and the challenge of Indian variant is absolutely sensible.'<br>But Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng defended the Government sticking to its strategy.<br>He said on Sky: 'The Government has very clear guidelines in terms of the ordered way in which we roll out the vaccine.<br>'That has been working and has been a very effective rollout, and we would suggest that people should do it in the correct order, in the right way.'<br><div class="art-ins mol-factbox news halfRHS" data-version="2" id="mol-3585ff40-b6fc-11eb-803e-fdb694fd378c" website Indian variant now behind 20% of cases in England