Data from Public Health England (PHE) shows an increase in cases from 520 to 1,313 this week in the UK, the agency saying cases are ‘increasing in the community’ and assessing the impact and severity of the variant .
One response being considered is to bring forward the date of a second dose of vaccine for eligible groups in order to increase protection.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the situation was being watched closely and the government “will not hesitate to take further action if necessary.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has not ruled out that local lockdowns are needed to contain the spread of the virus.
Dr Susan Hopkins, Director of Covid-19 Strategic Response at PHE, said: ‘We need to act collectively and responsibly to ensure that the variants do not impact the progress we have all made in reduce levels of Covid-19 and the increased freedom that brings. “
In Bolton, which has one of the highest case rates of the variant in the country, mobile testing units have been deployed and door-to-door Covid PCR testing has been offered to 22,000 residents.
A vaccination bus was set up to increase adoption among eligible people and a rapid response team of 100 nurses, public health advisers and environmental health workers was dispatched.
Meanwhile, surge tests have been deployed to Sefton, Merseyside, after cases of the Indian variant were confirmed in the Formby area, and anyone over the age of 16 who lives, works or studies in the area is invited to take a PCR test.
Measures have also been introduced elsewhere, including parts of London.
Mr Hancock said: “We are monitoring the situation very closely and will not hesitate to take further action if necessary.
“It is imperative that we all continue to be vigilant, and if you live in any of the 15 areas where we have introduced surge testing, be sure to get a free PCR test.
“And everyone who qualifies has to come forward and get a hit. “
Mr Johnson said the government was “worried” about the variant and “there is a range of things we could do, we’re not ruling out anything.”
Despite the release of the Indian variant, Mr Johnson said there was ‘nothing to dissuade me’ from easing England’s lockdown on Monday or the next steps towards normalcy on June 21.
But he added “maybe there are things we need to do locally and we won’t hesitate to do them if that’s the advice we get.”
Local locks should only be used if there is evidence to suggest that they are needed to contain or remove a variant that escapes the vaccine.
Although the Indian variant is considered highly transmissible, vaccines are expected to be effective against it.
Any attempt to impose further restrictions is likely to meet fierce resistance.
Tory Steve Baker, vice chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of MPs, said: “Why on earth would we do a lockdown when vaccines continue to break the link between cases and hospitalizations and deaths?”
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has warned against attempts to impose local measures.
Mr Burnham, who fought the government over Manchester restrictions last year, told BBC news: ‘We would be very concerned if the government would subdue Blackburn, Bolton, anywhere to be fair, to local restrictions when the rest of the country unlocks.
PHE said cases of the variant and all clusters are “quickly investigated” by local PHE teams, boards and the NHS Test and Trace to identify contacts of those who test positive.
People are encouraged to take tests and self-isolate if necessary.
PHE said there were “many small groups scattered around” in London and that he was working with borough councils on a local approach, which had already been effective in reducing variations.
Dr Hopkins urged people to follow local public health advice and said: ‘Cases of this variant are on the rise in the community and we are constantly monitoring its spread and severity to ensure we are taking health action. fast public. “
PHE is asking the public to continue working from home and to accept the twice weekly lateral flow test offer.
MP Layla Moran, chair of the all-party parliamentary group on the coronavirus, said: ‘The latest figures are deeply concerning and suggest that the government has not acted quickly enough to prevent the importation of the Indian variant into the UK. “
In other developments:
– Pubs, restaurants and indoor entertainment venues in Wales may reopen from Monday.
– Holidaymakers hoping to make it to Portugal on May 17 face uncertainty after authorities in Lisbon extended the country’s “state of calamity” until the end of the month.
– Until May 12, some 35,906,671 received a first dose of vaccine – an increase of 184,210 the day before – including 18,890,969 who received both doses, an increase of 452,437.
– Eleven other people died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 on Thursday, bringing the UK total to 127,651.