England’s R rate is now estimated to be between 1 and 1.5, as the government considers delaying ‘freedom day’ on 21 June by up to four weeks.
The epidemic could be growing as much as 6 per cent per day, according to the latest government figures.
Parts of the country are worst affected than others, with the North West reporting the highest R rate, at 1.3 to 1.5. London, the East of England and the South East are close behind, all with an R rate of 1.1 to 1.4.
A total of 42,323 cases of the Delta variant of coronavirus have now been confirmed in the UK, tripling from 12,431 last week, according to the latest Public Health England update.
The new figures come as the government is said to be considering a delay of two to four weeks to the original June 21 ‘freedom day’ deadline, among rising concerns about the Delta variant that originated in India.
Health secretary Matt Hancock revealed on Thursday that the Delta variant now accounts for 90 per cent of coronavirus cases in the UK.
The “variant of concern” is also 64 per cent more transmissable than the Alpha variant that was previously dominant in the UK, Public Health England confirmed on Friday.
In response to reports that the so-called “freedom day” could be delayed four weeks, vice-president of the Association of Directors of Public Health Jim McManus said that pushing back the June 21 reopening would “stop us going backwards”.
“Businesses and organisations have done so well in reopening that if we just keep that going for a few more weeks, and invest that little bit of time to keep us going forwards, it will stop us going backwards,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.