The number of cases of the Indian COVID variant in England has more than doubled since last week – rising by 3,535 to 6,959, according to official figures.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the variant is spreading and the latest estimates show it makes up more than half – and possibly as many as three quarters – of all new COVID cases.
The B.1.617.2 variant of concern, which is believed to be more transmissible than the Kent variant which became dominant in the country after Christmas, has resulted in surge testing and vaccinations in numerous areas.
Mr Hancock, speaking at a Downing Street news conference, said: “The variant first identified in India, so-called B.1.617.2, is still spreading.
“And 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 roadmap, we always expected cases to rise. We must remain vigilant.”