THE new variant of the coronavirus is “taking off” in all parts of the country, Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty has warned.
Speaking at a Government press conference alongside Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Prof Whitty said case rates increased by 70% in the UK in the two weeks to December 30.
Problems with the new variant, combined with the worst period of winter, led to a “significant increase” in the number of people testing positive for the virus in December, he added.
The Office for National Statistics now estimates roughly 1 in 50 people have the virus in England.
As a result, Prof Whitty said, hospitalisations were going up “very rapidly” and warned we are still in the middle of winter.
Boris Johnson said he knows people want the Government to use the lockdown to “put that invisible shield around the elderly and the vulnerable” in the form of vaccination – to bring the crisis to an end. He added that 1.1 million people have now been vaccinated in England, and 1.3 million across the UK.
Mr Johnson said: “That includes more than 650,000 people over 80 which is 23% of all the over 80s in England.
“That means nearly one-in-four of the most vulnerable will have significant protection in two to three weeks’ time.”
The prime minister says by next week there should be almost 1,000 vaccination sites across the country.