The number of cases of B.1.617.2 continue to surge across England, as the Government scrambles to contain the outbreak. Health secretary Matt Hancock told MPs on Monday that 86 out of 343 local authorities had now confirmed five or more incidents of the Indian variant. He added that a total of 2,323 people had been infected with the strain, which equates to a 77 percent increase in confirmed cases of B.1.617.2 over the last five days.
This significant increase has led some experts to predict that the Indian variant is about to become the dominant Covid strain within the UK.
Paul Hunter, a professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, told The Guardian: “There is no evidence that the recent rapid rise in cases of the B.1.617.2 variant shows any signs in slowing.
“This variant will overtake [the Kent variant] and become the dominant variant in the UK in the next few days, if it hasn’t already done so.”
Mr Hancock confirmed that the Indian variant was already the dominant strain in Bolton, Blackburn and Darwen.
The Health Secretary said that Bedford was also fast becoming a new epicentre for the spread of the Indian variant.
Experts are still unsure the extent to which B.1.617.2 is more transmissible than previous strains of the Covid virus.
The UK’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, told reporters: “That’s a really critical question to which we do not yet have the answer.”
However, the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) believes that it could spread 50 percent faster.
READ MORE: Which London boroughs have the Indian variant?
Step 4 envisages the easing of almost all social distancing rules, as well as the opening of nightclubs.
A Downing Street spokesman cautioned: “The variant first identified in India could pose serious disruption to this progress, and could make it more difficult to move to step 4.
“Our decision will be based on the very latest data, and we want to allow as much time as possible to assess this so we will set out plans as soon as the data allows.”