MAPS show how the infectious Delta subvariant has spread across the UK – with cases doubling in a MONTH.
The South West and the North East developed pockets of hotspots in early October, with experts starting to fret about the rising numbers.
These maps show the change in just a month in the spread of the subvariant
Maps from the Sanger Institute show cases of the subvariant made up 3.5 per cent of all infections on September 4, with it jumping up to 8.9 per cent a month later on October 9.
The spike in cases of AY.4.2 has been picked up in Britain, with a slice of the country’s growing infections due to the subvariant.
Professor Francois Balloux, director of the University College London Genetics Institute, said: “It is potentially, marginally more infectious strain.”
Experts have said “wait and see” and “don’t panic”, but as the booster jab rollout stutters, there are fears of a quicker spread as we come into winter.
But it is up to 15 per cent more infectious than the original Delta strain – rocketing up to 20,248, according to GISAID – which tracks variants globally.
It was first detected in June 26 in 11 London boroughs – Brent, Camden, Greenwich, Havering, Hounslow, Islington, Lewisham, Merton, Newham, Southwark and Wandsworth – and in Reading, Chelmsford, Three Rivers and Cherwell.
The next week the subvariant had spread to the Midlands, East of England and the South West.
Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist at Warwick Medical School, told the MailOnline the subvariant emerged due to the high number of cases in the UK.
He said: “It can only come from two places. Either, it has been imported or it has actually been generated somewhere locally as a consequence of virus spreading.
“It looks like it [generated in the UK]. It’s hard to explain otherwise. There is a very high pocket of infections in West Sussex at the moment, which is hard to explain in another way than when the Kent variant arose.
“I don’t think people are getting the message that the more the virus spreads the more chances it has to mutate.”
“What we can’t afford to happen now is another variant to be thrown up that is more transmissible.”
The UK Health Security Agency said in a report last week the subvariant is spreading in the UK.
It said: “A Delta sublineage newly designated as AY.4.2 is noted to be expanded in England. It is now a signal in monitoring and assessment has commenced.”
On Tuesday, the Government said a further 223 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid – bringing the UK total to 138,852.
An NHS chief has urged Brits to start wearing masks and work from home now to avoid “stumbling into a winter Covid crisis”.
Mr Taylor said the health system is preparing for what could be “the most challenging winter on record” and urged the public to “show extra support for the NHS” by “behaving in ways that will keep themselves and others safe”.
He warned if the Government “fails to get a grip” on rising coronavirus cases, the nation’s recovery from the pandemic could be “put at risk”.
At the moment, the UK has one of the highest weekly rates of new cases in the entire world.
And only 67 per cent have had two vaccinations, as the Government urges people eligible to get their third booster shot.
Prof Young added: “We are at a tipping point with increased levels of infection against a backdrop of waning vaccine-induced immunity and the easing of all restrictions.
“We must do everything to encourage those eligible to get their booster jabs and to vaccinate healthy 12 to 15 year olds. But we can’t rely on vaccination alone to protect us all over the winter and to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed.
“With the rising number of hospitalisations, Plan B measures (home orders, vaccine passports, social distancing and legally-enforced mask-wearing indoors) are looking increasingly likely.
“Stopping the spread of the Covid-19 virus will not only protect individuals from getting sick but will also curb the generation of new virus variants that could be more infectiousness and more able to evade vaccine-induced immunity.”
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