Scotland has seen a huge weekly rise in Covid cases, alarming new figures show.
Latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) also show sharp rises in Wales and Northern Ireland, while England’s rate has remained steady.
In Scotland one in 630 people is now believed to have the virus – compared to one in 1,960 a week ago.
The rate has shot up in Northern Ireland, from one in 1,550 to one in 820, and Wales – where it has risen from one in one in 3,850 from 4,340.
England’s rate is one in 1,120 people – a small change from 1,110 people last Friday.
Today Scottish First Minister said the Indian variant now appears to account for half new cases, saying there is “cause for concern”.
She said the R number could be as high as 1.3 – meaning 10 infected people will pass the virus to up to 13 others.
Yesterday Health Secretary Matt Hancock said three quarters of new Covid cases in the UK are the highly transmissible Indian variant.
Last night the Department of Health said 3,542 had tested positive for the virus – the highest daily figure since April 1.
But this is a huge reduction on figures from the second peak, with more than 81,500 positive tests confirmed on December 29, days before England was plunged into its third national lockdown.
Mr Hancock said that the link between Covid-19 cases, hospital admissions and deaths is being “severed”, in large part due to the vaccination programme.
Scientists do not believe the Indian variant is more deadly or renders the vaccine less effective.
However, government advisory body SAGE believes there is a “realistic possibility” transmissibility could be 50 per cent higher.
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