UP to six cases of the Indian coronavirus variant have been detected in Warrington, according to new figures.
Public Health England has been tracking the spread of the B.1.617.2 mutation – which originated in India – by testing positive Covid-19 cases across the country for an ‘S-gene’.
The gene is not present in the dominant Kent variant, which was responsible for a surge in cases over the winter, but is present in other variants of concern, including those from India.
Scientists have determined that the vast majority of the S-gene specimens identified across England in May are the Indian variant.
Public Health England identified six positive cases of the S-gene in Warrington between May 8 and 14.
The health body had previously reported that no cases were detected in the area between May 2 and 8, but warned that it has counted any tests conducted on May 8 twice.
The majority of areas in England have now reported at least one case.
Data shows 6,729 S-gene positive cases were recorded in England between the start of March and May 11 – up from 4,363 by May 5.
Of these, 2,994 (44 per cent) were in the north west – the largest proportion of England’s nine regions.
Public Health England analysis suggests that of a national sample of 1,192 positive S-gene specimens, 93 per cent were found to be the B.1.617.2 Indian mutation.
The data comes as a separate Public Health England study found both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines were highly effective against the Indian strain after a second dose.
The efficacy of the vaccines against the new variants is seen as a major obstacle blocking the next stage of the roadmap, but the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency said the possibility of restrictions being eased on June 21 was ‘looking good’.
After confirming the arrival of the Indian variant in Warrington on Friday, the town’s director of public health Thara Raj said: “We need everyone to stay vigilant and follow the rules as this is the best way to stop the spread of the virus.
“Maintain social distancing, wear a face covering, wash your hands often, stay in well ventilated areas, get tested regularly and get the vaccine when you are offered it.
“Even though it is now possible to meet people indoors, indoor household mixing is still high risk, so it is important to keep this to a minimum.
“Everyone over the age of 11 is able to have a lateral flow test, and I would advise people to test themselves regularly and self-isolate immediately if you have any Covid symptoms.
“We are coming up to the school holidays, and while I understand how tempting it is to go away to one of the green listed countries, any travel introduces further risks.
“So, my advice is to think twice at this time before you travel outside of the UK.”