LONDON: The Covid-19 epidemic in England is growing, scientists tracking it say - with much of it being driven by younger people who are not yet vaccinated, reports BBC.
The analysis, from the React-1 study, looked at the period 20 May to 7 June.
However, tentative signs in the latest daily data suggest growth may be beginning to slow. The rollout of vaccinations to younger people is key to reducing further spread, researchers from Imperial College London say.
Since last year, the team has been inviting a representative sample of the population to take Covid swab tests. The analysis also suggests a strengthening link between cases and hospital admissions, which is also reflected in the government’s daily coronavirus data.
The number of new infections is rising, with a seven-day average of 7,888 cases. The UK recorded 9,055 cases on Wednesday - the highest number since 9,985 were reported on 25 February.
The number of hospitalisations has also increased, with 1,177 patients in hospital as of Monday. However, daily deaths remain low, with a weekly average of nine deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
Prof Paul Elliot, who directs the study, said: “We can take quite a lot of comfort from the fact that when we look in the details, it does appear that there is very, very good protection in the older ages, where there is virtually everyone double vaccinated.
“The government has clearly announced that they want to vaccinate all adults in the period between now and 19 July. That will make a very big difference and increase the total amount of population immunity.”
He told BBC News that the study had found the Delta variant first seen in India had overtaken the Alpha (Kent) variant as the UK’s dominant strain, and was responsible for an estimated 90 percent of infections.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson cited the Delta variant’s rapid spread when he announced a four-week delay to the lifting of remaining Covid restrictions in England.
The measures will remain in place until 19 July after MPs backed the government in a Commons vote by 489 to 60. The outcome of the vote was initially wrongly announced, with 461 reported as being in favour.
The government has accelerated its vaccination drive, setting a new target to vaccinate all over-18s with a first dose and two-thirds of adults with a second dose by the same date.
Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said on Tuesday he expected that all those over the age of 18 would be able to book “by the end of this week,” as the vaccine rollout was extended to 21 and 22-year-olds in England on Wednesday. It leaves only 18 to 20-year-olds yet to be invited.
Another 190,033 people received a first dose of the vaccine on Tuesday, bringing the total with at least one dose to more than 42 million - or 79.8 percent of adults.
More than 30 million people - 57.8 percent of adults - have had both doses after a further 230,666 second jabs were given out.
New figures published by the Office for National Statistics on Thursday suggest people who test positive for Covid after being vaccinated are less likely to show symptoms and have less of the virus in their body.
The ONS analysis swabbed people at random, and picked up asymptomatic infections as well as the cases that show up in the daily case numbers.
It showed that the risk of getting infected was highest in the first three weeks after vaccination and fell after a second vaccination. Just under 40 percent of people who did get infected after vaccination showed symptoms.
There has been much speculation over whether children were going to be included in the UK’s vaccination programme against Covid-19 after regulator the MHRA approved Pfizer’s use in 12 to 15-year-olds recently.
But the BBC has been told a decision to vaccinate all 12 to 17-year-old children against Covid is unlikely to be recommended by UK vaccine experts imminently.
A statement from the JCVI - the committee of UK vaccine experts which advises the government on the best approach - is expected in the coming days, before ministers make a final decision on whether teenagers will be included in the rollout.
Meanwhile, government officials are said to be looking at proposals that could allow fully vaccinated British holidaymakers to avoid having to quarantine when returning from amber list countries, according to the Daily Telegraph.
But a senior government source told the BBC that there are “no plans” to allow double jabbed travellers to avoid isolating on their return to the UK; but travel policy is under constant review and this was being left open as an option.
It comes as the airline Ryanair and the owner of Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands airports are to launch a legal challenge against the government over the travel traffic light system.
They want more transparency about how ministers decide which countries qualify for the green list of safe places to visit amid the pandemic. Ministers say the system “cautiously manages the risk of new variants”.