U.K. Covid Cases Surge As Government Prepares To Scrap Rules

U.K. Covid cases surged, presenting Prime Minister Boris Johnson with more worrying data about the fast-spreading delta variant of the virus ahead of a planned easing of restrictions on July 19.

The reproduction rate of the virus in England has risen to levels last seen in October, the government said Friday. Cases of the Delta variant, which now accounts for 99% of U.K. infections, rose by almost a third in the past week to 216,249 cases, data from Public Health England showed.

The data come as Johnson finalizes plans to reopen the remaining bits of the economy and scrap social distancing rules on July 19, after a third coronavirus lockdown. The government is due on Monday to take a final decision on that reopening.

It means the backdrop for any reopening will be one of rising cases. With Health Secretary Sajid Javid warning that infections could rise to 100,000 a day after social distancing measures are lifted, the government is relying on one of the world’s most advanced vaccination programs to keep the virus in check.

One in every 160 people in England had the virus in the week through July 3, separate data from the Office for National Statistics showed on Friday. That’s up from 1 in 260 a week earlier. In Scotland, the proportion rose to 1 in 100 from 1 in 150, and the proportion also rose in Wales and Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile in England, the virus reproduction rate, or R number, rose to a range of 1.2 to 1.5, meaning that on average, 10 people with coronavirus would infect between 12 and 15 other people. It was in a range of 1.1 to 1.3 a week ago and has only once been higher -- in October -- in a series stretching back to May 2020.

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