Cases of mutant strain of coronavirus double in the South West

Covid tests being carried out.
The mutant covid strain is becoming more common in the South West. Credit: PA

The number of people who have tested positive for the new mutant strain of coronavirus in the South West has almost doubled in a month.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pointed to the mutated strain as a reason for introducing tighter restrictions, warning it could be around 70 per cent more infectious than other forms.

The variant has been spreading through the country since September and is most prevalent in London as well as the South East and East of England.

That is according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which has provided a regional breakdown of the new strain in private homes. It does not measure cases in hospitals or care homes.

The variant has been spreading much faster in eastern areas than elsewhere since November 18, which is when University of Oxford experts say data on the strain became reliable.

In the South West, only 0.11 per cent of people were thought to have the new form of coronavirus on November 18.

During the following month that figure almost doubled, reaching 0.21 per cent by December 18 – which is the date the ONS stats go up to.

It would mean one in every 476 people in the South West has a case of the new variant. Meanwhile, one in 278 people in the region (0.36 per cent) are thought to have another form of coronavirus.

The average in England is 0.69 per cent.

This indicates a very slow spread compared to London, which saw a rise from 0.21 to 1.88 per cent in the same period – increasing by almost nine times.

The data suggests is the new variant is yet to become dominant in the South West. Only 0.21 per cent of people are believed to have it in the area, compared to 0.36 per cent for other strains.

In eastern areas of the country, it has become dominant. For example, in London 1.88 per cent of people are thought to have the new strain.

Read more: