UK Covid cases today hit 3,000 for the first time in a MONTH, sparking calls for tougher restrictions as the Indian variant continues to spread.
Daily infections grew by 18 per cent compared to last Wednesday's rise, reaching their highest level since April 12.
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A total of 3,180 positive infections were logged, meaning at least 4,470,297 people in Britain have now caught the bug since the start of the pandemic.
On April 12, the figure grew by 3,568.
Deaths, however, remained in single figures today, with another nine Covid fatalities recorded in the last 24 hours, and the figure staying steady in recent weeks.
It means a total of 127,748 have now died within 28 days of a positive Covid test result since the start of the pandemic.
It comes as the Indian variant continues to spread across Britain with hotspots having faced chaos yesterday amid new Government rules.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps today apologised for the rules – which appeared to restrict freedoms in high affected areas – and said the Government would not be imposing any local lockdowns.
Meanwhile Professor Neil Ferguson, also dubbed Professor Lockdown, today said it was "impossible" to say whether restrictions in England could be fully lifted on June 21 as planned because of the worrying strain.
The Imperial College London epidemiologist said it would only be a problem for the roadmap out of lockdown if it is more than 60 per cent more transmissible than the dominant Kent strain.
Speaking at a press briefing this afternoon, Professor Ferguson said: "It's a matter of degree.
"If you hypothesise a situation where the virus is 60 per cent more transmissible then you could see a third wave the size we have just come out of but if it's 20 or 30 per cent it will be much lower.
"We can cope with a certain level of increased transmissibility and still continue with the roadmap – but if it's higher than that we have to reconsider."
He added if it goes beyond those levels, "then we need to reconsider the rate of reopening and maybe slow the next step".
"I think it's actually too early to say whether we will be able to go ahead with what was planned in the UK in mid June and the next step, basically a full relaxation of measures," Prof Ferguson said.
"Or whether that fourth stage of relaxation will need to be postponed or indeed, in the worst case, measures need to be tightened up.
"We're getting more and more data every week, but we hope to be in a position to be more definitive about these answers in the next two to three weeks."
A total of 61,995,062 jabs have been dished out across the UK so far, with 38.4million adults — or 72.9 per cent — having had at least one.
Meanwhile data from a major Government surveillance study today revealed three out of four people in England now have antibodies against Covid, the MailOnline reports.
Updated figures from the Office for National Statistics also showed 76 per cent of adults had signs of immunity in the week ending May 3.
It comes as a new Covid variant that emerged in Yorkshire shows how rapidly the virus is evolving to evade vaccines.
Named AV.1, there have been only 49 cases of the strain confirmed so far.
But this figure, to May 12, appears to have doubled to 99, according to data from the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium.
A new scientific paper revealed the characteristics of the variant for the first time using swabs from people in Sheffield – where cases are centred.
Researchers led by University of Sheffield said the Yorkshire variant has “several” mutations that are already seen in concerning variants from South Africa, Brazil and India.
“Some of these are associated with immune escape and with increased transmissibility”, Prof Lawrence Young, a virologist and professor of molecular oncology at the University of Warwick, said.
He told the Sun: “The more we look, the more variants we will find as long as the virus continues to spread.
“The good news is that vaccines work against all the variants albeit with reduced efficiency in some cases.
“This all shows that we are not out of the woods and test and trace is more important than ever.”
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