The North West is seeing the sharpest rise in COVID infections in England, new data has revealed, amid fears the growth of the Indian variant could derail the roadmap out of lockdown.
In a report published by Public Health England (PHE) on Thursday, they said the North West currently has 52.8 cases per 100,000 people, an increase from the previous week which saw 39 cases per 100,000.
The North West also has the overall highest number of cases in the country, almost five times more than the South West, which has the lowest at 9.2 per 100,000.
The report also said the East Midlands was the only region to see a decrease in cases, down slightly from 21.7 to 21 per 100,000.
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PHE also said case rates in England among all age groups have risen slightly.
The highest rate is among 10 to 19-year-olds, with 55.2 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to 23 May, up week-on-week from 43.5. This is also the age group to see the biggest week-on-week increase.
The North West is the area that has been hit hardest by the Indian variant, which is believed to be up to 50% more transmissible than the current dominant strain of COVID circulating in the UK.
Bolton, the worst impacted area in the country, continues to have the highest rate, with 1,245 new cases in the seven days to 23 May – the equivalent of 433.0 cases per 100,000 people.
This is up from 343.2 in the seven days to May 16.
Blackburn with Darwen, also in the North West has the second highest rate, up from 159.7 to 333.3, with 499 new cases.
The 10 areas with the highest infection rates are:
Bolton with 433 cases per 100,000 people
Blackburn with Darwen with 333.3 cases per 100,000 people
Bedford with 208.3 cases per 100,000 people
Rossendale with 166.5 cases per 100,000 people
Kirklees with 112.1 cases per 100,000 people
Hyndburn with 91.3 cases per 100,000 people
Burnley with 90.0 cases per 100,000 people
Manchester with 70.2 cases per 100,000 people
Bury with 66.0 cases per 100,000 people
Leicester with 63.0 cases per 100,000 people
Out of the top 10, seven were in the North West.
At a Downing Street press conference on Thursday Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of UK Health Security Agency, said there was "a suggestion of an upward rise in cases" in the most recent data.
The number of COVID cases in the UK has been rising in recent weeks, with over 3,000 cases reported on Wednesday and Thursday.
The last time more than 3,000 cases were recorded on a single day was at the start of April.
The rolling seven-day average has risen to 2,773 cases.
Dr Harries said the rise in cases was not yet being met with an increase in the number of people entering hospital with COVID.
She said: "Currently to the data we saw on actual numbers of cases we can see that the patients admitted to hospital has continued to decline or flatten off, but we are not seeing a sharp increase in cases in hospital admissions."
However, she did warn the rise in infections could derail the roadmap out of lockdown.
She said she agrees with Professor Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London, who said the full reopening of society on June 21 “hangs in the balance”.
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