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Worst hit Covid hotspots revealed after discovery of new fast-spreading strain

Thurrock, in Essex, now has England’s highest Covid rate following the news of a virus mutation which may be up to 70% more contagious.

Over the weekend, Boris Johnson plunged London and parts of the South East into tier four amid fears the new variant of the virus, known as VUI-202012/01, was responsible for more than half of new cases in the capital.

Data showing the rolling seven-day rate of Covid-19 cases has now revealed that 90% of England has seen a rise in infection rates. Only 29 of the 315 areas have seen cases fall, making up 9%, and just one region remains unchanged.

Thurrock now has the highest rate in the country after seeing the largest week-on-week jump in England, with 1,841 new cases recorded in the seven days to December 16, the equivalent of 1,056.0 cases per 100,000 people. This is from 387.2 per 100,000 in the seven days to December 9.

Havering in London then has the second highest rate, with 1021.8 cases per 100,000, up from 513.6 after 2,652 new cases were identified. In third place is Basildon, in Essex, with 995.2 cases per 100,000, up from 619.7.

Medway, in Kent, closely follows with 981.8 cases per 100,000, up from 618.9, while Epping Forest has 956.8 per 100,000, up from 382.7. Swale, which was once the worst hit area in England, now has 912.8 cases per 100,000, up from 969.

Areas with highest Covid rates in England

Thurrock, 1056.0 cases per 100,000, up from 387.2

Havering, 1021.8, up from 513.6

Basildon, 995.2, up from 619.7

Medway, 981.8, up from 618.9

Epping Forest, 956.8, up from 382.7

Swale, 912.8, up from 645.6

Redbridge, 884.9, up from 402.3

Brentwood, 875.1, (674), 399.9, (308)

Rochford, 864.2, up from 266.7

Ashford, 842.9, up from 453.0

Other than Thurrock, Havering and Epping Forest, the biggest week-on-week jumps were Rochford, which soared from 266.7 cases to 864.2, and Castle Point which went up from 289.9 to 787.8, with 712 new cases.

All these areas are in the new tier four announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday, where residents are only allowed to mix with one other person at a time in an outdoor public setting. The easing of restrictions over Christmas have been cancelled entirely for those areas.

Copeland, in western Cumbria, currently has England’s lowest Covid rate, with 26.4 cases per 100,000, down from 27.9. Torbay, the Isle of Wight and Cornwall also each have rates under 63 cases per 100,000.

Tamworth, in Staffordshire, was the only area where the case rates didn’t change, with it remaining at 139.5 per 100,000 people.

On Saturday, Johnson said the new variant of Covid is not believed to be more harmful than previous strains of the virus, although it is more contagious. A government advisory group on new and emerging respiratory virus threats (NERVTAG) has been analysing the variant this week.

The Prime Minister continued: ‘There’s no evidence that it causes more severe illness or higher mortality, but it does appear to be passed on significantly more easily.

‘NERVTAG’s early analysis suggest it could increase the R by 0.4 or more and although there’s considerable uncertainty it may be up to 70% more transmissible than the old variant, the original version, of the disease. This is early data and it’s subject to review.’

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