COVID cases in the UK have rocketed by 70% in just one week amid fears the June 21 lockdown easing may be delayed.
Another 5,765 new infections have been recorded in the latest 24-hour period, with another 13 coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the total fatalities since the pandemic began to 127,836.
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Today's cases are up from last Saturday, when 3,398 cases were confirmed and seven deaths were recorded.
And yesterday saw 11 new deaths and 6,238 cases recorded, compared with ten deaths and 4,182 cases the previous Friday.
Meanwhile, Scotland has recorded its second-highest number of daily Covid infections – 860 – since February, according to the latest Scottish Government figures.
On Thursday, Public Health England said the Indian variant is now believed to be dominant in the UK – with cases rising 79 percent from the previous week.
Surge testing has been deployed in 25 areas of the UK to detect both the South African and Indian variants.
"Professor Lockdown" Neil Ferguson has warned the Indian variant could yet be 100 percent more transmissible than other strains.
And the crucial R rate is also as high as 1.3, according to Sage – meaning the virus is up again.
But a whopping 40 million UK adults – 76.1 percent – have now had at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, while 51.6 percent have had two jabs.
Matt Hancock tweeted: "Fantastic news that over 40 million people in the UK have been vaccinated against Covid.
"Everyone working on this massive national effort has done an incredible job. When you get the call, get the jab."
It means a total of 67,284,864 vaccines have been jabbed into the arms of Brits.
It comes as face masks and social distancing could now remain in place after June 21 while the UK grapples with the new Indian variant.
One source told The i it would be "irresponsible" to relax the rules too quickly as it could lead to another "full lockdown in autumn".
But pub giants and football fans have urged Boris Johnson to stay firm on his pledge to lift lockdown on June 21.
The battle cry came amid fears that delays could plunge England’s hosting of the Euros into chaos.
Ministers and officials are working on contingency plans to move "Freedom Day" to next month, as well as retaining distancing and limits on fans in stadiums.
But Kate Nicholls, of UK Hospitality warned that even a two-week delay to ending lockdown would cost the industry £1.5billion.
She added: "This needs to be a full and final unlocking. Our businesses are running out of road, particularly given Government support is withdrawn from June 30."
Greene King chief exec Nick Mackenzie said it was “incredibly important” the Government stick to its plan.
"After the year we’ve had, and the millions the industry has invested in making pubs safe any delay would be a devastating blow," he said.
"Bringing people together to watch the game on the big screen is what we do. Being able to do that again this summer will give us a fighting chance of rebuilding after a crippling 15 months."
Those pushing for a delay to the lifting of lockdown argue it would allow more Brits to get at least their first jab.
Vaccines have "broken the chain" between catching the virus and becoming seriously ill, Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, said today.
Ministers and medics would also have more time to study data if "Freedom Day" was delayed, with infections worryingly back at March levels.
But Hopson said the number of people in hospital with the variant was not increasing "very significantly".
Those in hospital in hotspot Bolton – which has the highest number of cases of the Indian variant in England – are younger than seen previously in the pandemic.
Hopson told BBC Breakfast: "The people who came in this time round were actually a lot younger and were a lot less at risk of very serious complication, less at risk of death, and what that means is that they were less demand on critical care.
"What we think we can start to say now, based on that experience, is that it does look as though the vaccines have broken the chain between catching Covid-19 and potentially being very, very seriously ill and potentially dying.
"There were very, very few people who have had those double jabs and had been able to have that build-up of protection after those jabs."
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