Covid: London has highest number of Indian variant cases in England

A pharmacy in London offering vaccinations. Credit: PA

London has the highest number of Indian variant coronavirus in England, figures show.

Statistics reveal there were 400 recorded infections of the strain in the capital, which accounts for almost a third of cases nationwide.

The majority of cases are believed to be linked to people who have travelled back from India recently.

Public Health England is working with the health system and borough councils in parts of the city where cases have been identified. 

A community-led approach is being utilised to help reduce transmission of the variant within London.

PCR testing, genome sequencing and enhanced contact tracing are being utilised to help target clusters.

Professor Kevin Fenton, London Regional Director for Public Health England, said: "Although total numbers remain relatively low in London, we have seen a significant increase in the proportion of cases of the variant of concern first detected in India in recent weeks.

"We are seeing lots of small separate clusters across the city, the vast majority of which are linked to international travel or household transmission.

"In response, we are working closely with local public health teams and borough councils to increase targeted and community testing where needed and implement whole genome sequencing and enhanced contact tracing where cases have been identified.

"The best thing Londoners can do to avoid catching or spreading this and all variants is to get tested, get vaccinated when offered and keep to the basics of Hands, Face, Space and Fresh Air.

"This will be increasingly important as restrictions ease further on Monday and we begin to socialise indoors."

Nadhim Zahawi said there is "no evidence" the Indian variant can evade vaccines or is more deadly, but it is understood to be more transmissible - meaning it could cause an exponential rise in infection rates.

Coronavirus data will be monitored in the four weeks following May 17, when lockdown will ease, and a decision will be taken as to whether the final step out of lockdown can be taken as planned on June 21.

"Hopefully if we all work together it will be positive because we can bare down on this infection, on this variant," Mr Zahawi told ITV News, "but we take nothing off the table".