At least 29 cases of the worrying Indian coronavirus strain have been detected in south east London this week, causing concern on the day indoor hospitality reopens across England.
Bolton has quickly emerged as the epicentre of the spread of the new mutant strain, but new statistics from Public Health England reveal that the strain is now starting to get a foothold in London too.
To combat the spread, scientists have been testing positive Covid samples for an ‘S gene’, which is something only present in the Indian strain.
Around 400 cases were found to contain the S gene nationally this month, and 93% of those were determined to be the Indian strain after full genomic sequencing.
The worrying variant, which is already dominant in the North West, now appears to be spreading to parts of London, and every borough in south east London has recorded at least one case.
Cases of the B.1.617.2 variant have more than than doubled in the UK in the last week, from 520 to 1,313, and the worrying strain is already dominant in the North West in areas such as Bolton.
Experts have already warned that the variant will “get everywhere” in the country, and London now appears to be the latest hotspot for the mutant coronavirus strain.
The new stats show that region by region, London has the highest number of confirmed and suspected cases of the Indian variant, with 400 reported cases as of May 12. This is almost a third of all the cases in the capital (32%).
In Greenwich, 15 cases were classifiable for testing, and PHE say eight of these have come back positive for the S gene, giving the borough a strike rate of 53.3%.
Bromley also has eight believed cases of the Indian variant, but its strike rate of 66.7% means it has a slightly higher chance of the variant being more dominant compared to the other strains in the area.
In Bexley, seven suspected cases of the variant have been identified, 46.7% of the cases sent for testing.
Lewisham has the least number of possible variant cases in the region, with six, half of the cases sent for testing.
Nearby, Dartford recorded four cases with a 100% strike rate, and Southwark recorded one suspected variant case.
The emergence of the variant, which many scientists predict could overtake the Kent variant soon, is giving cause for concern for the Government and their plans to scrap social distancing in June, despite the success of the vaccination campaign.
It is particularly worrying due to concerns it is resistant to antibodies and is highly transmissible, much like the Kent variant.
So far, four people are known to have died from the Indian variant.
Speaking, Public Health England confirmed there has been an increase in new variants – including the Indian strain – across the south east, but numbers remain “relatively low”.
Deputy director for health protection in the south east, Trish Mannes, said: “We are seeing lots of small separate clusters across the region, 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 local authority partners 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 everyone 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 and we begin to socialise indoors.”