Matt Hancock has said that up to three quarters of new coronavirus cases are the Indian variant.
The Health Secretary – who is under pressure following a string of allegations from Dominic Cummings – said Covid-19 cases in the country are rising, at a briefing on Thursday afternoon.
Daily cases hit the highest number since April 12 on Thursday, with 3,542 new infections and ten deaths confirmed.
Mr Hancock said: ‘The latest estimates are that more than half and potentially as many as three-quarters of all new cases are now of this variant.
‘As we set out our road map we always expected cases to rise, we must remain vigilant.
‘The aim, of course, is to break the link to hospitalisations and deaths so that cases alone no longer require stringent restrictions on people’s lives.’
A total of 6,959 cases of the Indian strain – now the dominant form of coronavirus in the UK – have now been confirmed, Public Health England figures accurate up to Wednesday showed.
That represents a rise of 3,535 on the previous week.
In England 6,180 cases of the B.1.617.2 strain have now been confirmed, along with 702 in Scotland, 58 in Wales and 19 in Northern Ireland.
Earlier on Thursday, Professor Neil Ferguson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the June 21 road map date for England now hangs in the balance.
He said experts were still concerned about issues including the transmissibility of the Indian variant and that as a result ‘Step 4 (of the road map) is rather in the balance, the data collected in the next two to three weeks will be critical’.
He added: ‘The key issue as to whether we can go forward is: will the surge caused by the Indian variant – and we do think there will be a surge – be more than has been already planned in to the relaxation measures?’
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