UK records more than 11,000 daily coronavirus infections for first time since February

Government figures showed 11,007 cases were reported on Thursday

FILE PHOTO: A person receives a dose of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine at a vaccination centre for those aged over 18 years old at the Belmont Health Centre in Harrow, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in London, Britain, June 6, 2021. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo

The UK’s latest surge in Covid-19 infections gathered pace on Thursday, with new cases increasing above 10,000 for the first time in nearly four months as the more contagious Delta variant spread.

Government figures showed another 11,007 cases were reported, the highest daily tally since February 19, when 12,027 cases were recorded.

It appears to suggest that the country with Europe’s highest Covid-19 death toll is in the middle of a third wave.

The government’s chief medical adviser, Prof Chris Whitty, said it was “still uncertain” when the latest surge would reach its peak.

It will "definitely translate into further hospitalisations and unfortunately, it will undoubtedly translate into further deaths", Prof Whitty said.

Daily cases have increased sharply over the past few weeks after hovering about the 2,000 mark earlier.

The Delta strain was identified in India and is considered by government scientists to be between 40 and 80 per cent more transmissible than the previous dominant strain.

It accounts for about 95 per cent of all new cases in the UK.

Most of the new cases have been in younger age groups, which have not yet been vaccinated against the disease.

The UK’s widely praised inoculation programme is to be extended to everyone over the age of 18 starting on Friday, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.

The spread of the variant ended government plans to lift all remaining restrictions in England starting next week.

On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson delayed the move until July 19, saying now was the "time to ease off the accelerator" so more people could become vaccinated, preventing thousands of deaths.

Mr Johnson said he hoped that by July 19, two thirds of the UK’s adult population would have been offered two vaccine shots, including everyone over 50.

The government’s figures on Thursday showed that another 19 people died after testing positive for the virus, the highest daily death toll reported since May 11.

It takes the number of fatalities to 127,945, the highest in Europe.

Prof Whitty also said the country should brace itself for further waves of infection.

“In the medium-term, my expectation is that we will get a further winter surge, late autumn-winter surge," he said.

"That is because we know that winter and autumn favour respiratory viruses, and therefore it’d be very surprising if this particular highly transmissible respiratory virus was not also favoured."

The Conservative government has been criticised for the sharp rise in infections.

Critics say authorities acted too slowly to impose the strictest quarantine requirements on everyone arriving from India, which has had a catastrophic resurgence of the virus.

The hope is that the vaccination programme will turn the latest surge around and allow authorities to ease restrictions.

As of Thursday, about 63 per cent of the British population had received at least one dose of vaccine, while about 46 per cent had received two.

On Monday, an analysis from Public Health England showed that two doses of the main vaccines in the UK are highly effective at preventing people from requiring hospital treatment for the Delta variant.

The figures were 96 per cent for Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine and 92 per cent for AstraZeneca's.