Hounslow, London, which became one of the UK’s biggest hotspots for the variant of the coronavirus first identified in India on Thursday May 27, 2021.

Tejas Sandhu | MI News | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Cases of the Covid-19 variant, which were first identified in India, have more than doubled in England within a week, the country’s health authority said on Thursday.

The number of cases of the strain had reached 6,959 as of May 26, an increase of 3,535 cases from the previous week.

Variant B.1.617.2, a highly contagious triple mutant strain of the coronavirus, is likely more transmissible than the variant first identified in England last fall, according to Public Health England.

According to the PHE, Bolton, Bedford and Blackburn are currently the hardest hit areas in England, although there have been few cases of this variant in most of the country.

Hospital admissions also increased in some areas, added PHE, noting that most hospital admissions were among non-vaccinated individuals.

Research published by PHE last week showed that two doses of Covid-19 vaccines gave people a high level of protection against the B.1.617.2 strain.

Jenny Harries, CEO of the UK Health Security Agency, said in PHE’s weekly update that the public should continue to act with caution if the UK relaxes lockdown restrictions.

“We now know that both doses of the vaccine offer high levels of protection against this variant, and we urge everyone to get the vaccine,” she said.

“Make sure you stay cautious, work from home when you can, meet people outside where possible, and remind yourself of hands, face, space, fresh air at all times.”

The UK has started to temporarily lift lockdown restrictions in recent months. The government hopes to lift all measures by June 21st.

However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned the country “may have to wait” for it to return to normal, despite telling the BBC on Thursday that there was “nothing in the data at the moment,” suggesting the unblocking in June derailed.

Johnson announced earlier this month that the UK would speed up second doses of vaccine for those over 50 and be clinically vulnerable to control the spread of the B.1.617.2 strain.

As of May 26, the UK had administered more than 62.6 million vaccines with 73% of the adult population receiving their first dose. Almost half of British adults were fully vaccinated with both doses.

On May 22nd, 883 people were hospitalized with Covid-19 in the UK – a huge drop from the January high of 39,249.