Scientists estimate that the Delta variant is the cause of 96 per cent of all new coronavirus cases.
The latest figures from Public Health England (PHE) show there have been 42,323 cases of the Delta variant confirmed in the UK, up by 29,892 from the previous week.
It estimates the strain is 60 per cent more transmissible compared with the previously dominant Alpha variant, and that cases are doubling every four-and-a-half days in some parts of England.
‘100,000 new cases a day’
The UK could face Covid infections of more than 100,000 a day if lockdown easing goes ahead, according to a member of Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).
Professor Anthony Costelle, of University College London, said that the real number of new infections was likely to be twice the 8,000 new daily cases found by tests.
“Let’s wait. Let’s stay as we are.”
The latest polling from market researcher Opinium showed that 54 per cent of the public would favour a delay in lifting restrictions, compared to the 37 per cent against.
Government will proceed ‘carefully and cautiously’
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said that the Government will be proceeding “carefully and cautiously” when it comes to lifting restrictions in England.
Speaking to Sky News’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday programme, Raab said: “We are in a race to roll out the second dose of vaccine against the variants.
“We need to sift the data very carefully. We have done a great job with the vaccine rollout, but, as the PM said, we want to proceed irreversibly.
“That means we need to do it carefully and cautiously.”
‘Things are getting worse’
Professor Stephen Reicher, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (Spi-B), which advises the Government, said that the UK should be wary of “going backwards” as new cases of the virus continue to increase.
Reicher also criticised the narrative of a “weak public” throughout the pandemic, saying that people had been “held back by a government that isn’t prepared to take action”.
When asked on Times Radio what he expected the Government to announce on Monday regarding final stage lockdown easing, he said: “I think we’ll hear a delay, because all the data now points that way.
“In a situation where things are getting worse, we don’t know who much worse they’re going to get. We don't know how many people are going to get seriously ill.
“There’s still a lot of damage that can be done, therefore it makes good sense to pause.”
‘Majority support a delay’
Reicher said the UK had previously failed to get “the basics” right and that more financial support was needed from the Government to help people self-isolate properly and afford to get tested.
Asked about the public willingness to continue with restrictions and social distancing measures beyond so-called freedom day, he continued: “The narrative throughout this pandemic is that the public is the problem, the public won’t wear it, the Government wants to do things [and] is held back by a weak public.
“In fact, the evidence throughout has shown us that people are prepared to do things, the public are following the science and are prepared to do the things that keep them and their communities safe.
“If you look at the polling now you will find a clear majority of people support the delay, and what’s more a large majority of people understand that even after we lift restrictions we’ll have to do sensible things in order to stop the spread of infection.
“The truth of this pandemic is not that we have a Government that wants to act, held back by a weak public.
“We have a public that understands what needs to be done, is following the science and yet is held back by a Government that isn’t prepared to take action.”
‘Make vaccines available to the whole world’
Reicher added that more efforts should be made internationally to help end the crisis.
“One of the most important things is to make sure we make vaccines available to the whole world and that enough vaccines are being produced for the whole world,” he said.
“It is not enough to give away vaccines, the really important thing is to make other countries, poorer countries, able to produce their own vaccines through vaccine patent waivers and the Government is still blocking that.”
Additional reporting by PA