Blackburn overtakes Bolton with highest Covid case rates in UK after both areas were hit by Indian variant

BLACKBURN has overtaken Bolton as England's Covid hotspot – after both areas were badly hit by the Indian mutation.

A total of 584 confirmed cases were recorded in Blackburn in the seven days to May 26, Public Health England said.

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It's the equivalent of 390.1 cases per 100,000 people – meaning the Lancashire town has overtaken Bolton, where cases are finally beginning to drop and 386.7 cases per 100,000 have been recorded.

It comes as:

  • Cases of the Indian variant diagnosed in Bolton have fallen more than 10 per cent in four days after health chiefs deployed surge testing
  • Brit spies are ‘recruiting Chinese whistleblowers on the darkweb’ for intel on fears Covid leaked from a Wuhan lab
  • Fully-vaccinated people who catch Covid may STILL be able pass on variants, it's feared
  • Half of adults in the UK will have been vaccinated with both jabs by the end of the week
  • NHS staff ‘to be legally required to have the jab’ under Government plans to crack down on transmission in hospitals

Health chiefs are rushing through vaccinations in both towns in a bid to protect the vulnerable and stamp out the variant.

Another area of Lancashire, Rossendale, is now recording the third highest rate of new Covid-19 cases in the UK.

Currently, there are 292.4 cases per 100,000 people – a steep rise from 63 per 100,000 just a week earlier.

Overall, 230 of the 380 local areas in the UK – 61 per cent – recorded a week-on-week rise in Covid cases as of May 26.

Across Britain, the number of people testing positive has risen by almost 40 per cent in just a week, with another 3,240 infections reported today.

The troubling news comes as Boris Johnson mulls over a decision on whether he can lift all restrictions on June 21.

Deaths currently remain low, with six fatalities reported today.

It's hoped the low toll means the UK's jabs rollout has severed the link between infections, hospitalisations and deaths – despite the super-infectious new variant taking hold.

However, ministers are reportedly preparing to row back on 'freedom day' next month.

Face masks and the work from home order are set to stay in place for weeks to come.

Brits will be told of the PM's final decision on June 14, Vaccines Minister Nsdhim Zahawi confirmed today.

There's uncertainty over the transmissibility of the Indian variant – and it's believed hospitalisations are starting to rise again, although they remain well below the peak in January.

Between May 19 and 25, 870 people went into hospital with coronavirus, an increase of 23.2 per cent compared with the previous seven days.

But it was announced yesterday that only two people have died of the mutation after being fully vaccinated – boosting hopes the jab can combat a third wave.

Mr Zahawi told the BBC's Andrew Marr: "We have to be cautious."

"Are we still vaccinating at scale? Big tick. Are the vaccines working? Yes. But are infection rates too high for us to then not be able to proceed because there are too many people getting into hospital? I don't know the answer to it," he said.

One source involved in assessing emerging figures for the Government told the Sunday Times: "If I were to call it now, I'd say step four is highly likely to be delayed."

Scientists advising the Government say life cannot yet go back to normal.

Professor Stephen Reicher, who advises on behavioural science for Sage, said: "The data we are seeing at the moment suggests we have a problem.

"We don't know how big the problem is – it might be bad, it might be very bad, we will learn in the next week or two."

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