More than 150 cases of Indian variant recorded last week in Bedford
The town has more positive S-gene cases than almost anywhere else in England
Up to 156 cases of the Indian variant of coronavirus were detected in Bedford last week, new figures reveal.
Public Health England (PHE) has been tracking the spread of the B.1.617.2 mutation – which originated in India – by testing positive Covid-19 cases across the country for an 'S-gene'.
The gene is not present in the dominant Kent variant, which was responsible for a surge in cases over the winter, but is present in other variants of concern, including those from India.
Scientists have determined that the vast majority of the S-gene specimens identified across England in May are the Indian variant.
PHE identified 156 positive cases of the S-gene in Bedford between May 8-14.
The health body had previously reported that 71 cases were detected in the area between May 2-8, but warned that it has counted any tests conducted on May 8 twice.
Bedford has more positive S-gene cases than almost anywhere else in England, though the majority of areas have also reported at least one case.
Earlier, Bedford Today revealed how ministers were under fire after the Government amended its website to say people shouldn't leave or enter Bedford - despite not publicly telling anyoneThe data comes as a separate PHE study found both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines were highly effective against the Indian strain after a second dose.
However, the same study found they were only 33 per cent effective three weeks after the first dose.
In response to the Indian variant, more Covid vaccine appointment slots are being made available in Bedford for residents hoping to get their first jab.
The efficacy of the vaccines against the new variants is seen as a major obstacle blocking the next stage of the roadmap, but the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency said the possibility of restrictions being eased on June 21 was “looking good”.
However, Dr Jenny Harries urged the public to be cautious to avoid another lockdown, warning that the new Indian variant has become the “dominant strain” in some parts of the country.
She told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: “It’s looking good if people are continuing to observe all of the safety signals, so we should not stop doing what we’re doing, particularly in areas where we have that variant of concern."
From June 21 at the earliest, nightclubs are due to reopen and restrictions on large events such as festivals are to be lifted, as are restrictions on the number of people at weddings.