The reproduction rate of coronavirus in England has jumped up to between 1.2 to 1.4, as the epidemic becomes fuelled by growth of the Delta variant first discovered in India.
The increased R number, updated on 11 June, comes as the government mulls over how to proceed with the last phase of its roadmap out of lockdown, set to begin as early as 21 June. When the R number is above 1, the spread of infection is growing.
The rate is higher in London, with Public Health England putting it at between 1.1 and 1.4. On 4 June, the last time the data was updated, the country’s R number was between 1.0 and 1.2.
On 11 June, PHE also published data that indicated that over 90% of new Covid-19 cases in the UK are the Delta variant, with cases rising by 29,892 to 42,323 since 3 June.
The figures also found that the Delta variant has a 60% increased risk of household transmission compared to the one first identified in Kent in September 2020, renamed Alpha, which caused the UK’s deadly second wave.
Ministers are considering delaying the end of the restrictions for a month, The Times reported on 11 June, citing anonymous sources. The Prime Minister is expected to announce the next steps on 14 June, a week before the next phase of lifting lockdown rules is due to start.
Health secretary Matt Hancock, speaking in the House of Commons on 17 May, had urged the country to remain “humble in the face of this virus”, when it first emerged that the Delta variant was the dominant strain of coronavirus in the UK.
Meanwhile, City firms have been slowly increasing numbers in their offices as 21 June approaches. US investment bank Goldman Sachs told its UK staff that they should “make plans to be in a position to return to the office” by 21 June. Blue chip bank Barclays similarly said it would be ramping up employee numbers from June.
Google Mobility Data, however, shows that transport into the Square Mile and to the office has slowed slightly as concerns for the Delta variant increase. Transit into and out of public transport stations is down 70% compared to pre-pandemic levels and travel to workplace still 59% that of what it was in February 2020, according to data published on 7 June.
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