The infection rate in Indian variant hotspot Bolton has plummeted by over 10 percent in a matter of days, new figures show.
Surge testing and a major vaccination push in the Lancashire town have seen the numbers drop considerably in just four days.
Recorded cases were at 451 per 100,000 people on May 20, but this stood at just 403 on May 24.
At least 15,000 residents have been jabbed over the past fortnight after health chiefs launched an intensive programme to halt the spread of mutation.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I want to thank everyone in Bolton who is working to turn the tide – the public health workers, volunteers, NHS staff, Armed Forces and the public.”
Last week, Covid hospitalisations in Bolton had tripled in three weeks from 12 on May 10 to 43, according to reports.
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However, Dr Helen Wall, who is leading the town’s virus battle, said only a few of those admitted had received both doses.
She told BBC 4’s Today Programme: “In terms of how ill they’re getting, I think the vaccine definitely seems to be working.”
It comes as a Downing Street adviser involved in assessing the data admitted lockdown’s end on June 21 will probably be delayed as Indian variant cases continue to climb across the country.
They told The Times : “If I was to call it now, I’d say step four is highly likely to be delayed.”
Warwick University modelling suggests there will only be no significant risk to the NHS if transmission is increased by less than 20 per cent compared with the existing Kent variant.
The decision to lift final lockdown measures in England on June 21 will be made after data on infection, hospitalisation, vaccination and new variants are assessed, Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said today.
“I don’t see anything currently in the data to suggest that we have to deviate from the roadmap, but we may need to wait,” he said.
The number of cases of the variant in Britain rose to nearly 7,000 last week, double the number a week earlier.
Mr Hancock said the variant was behind up to three quarters of new cases.
But there was further evidence that vaccines were effective in stopping hospitalisations and deaths from the new variant.
The chief executive of NHS Providers, the association for NHS trusts and foundation trusts, Chris Hopson, said Covid hospital admission rates were not increasingly rapidly.
“They vary between climbing slowly, plateau-ing or, interestingly, starting to reduce,” he said on Twitter.
“Very few patients in hospital – ‘a handful’ – who have received both vaccination doses and those in this category usually have pronounced co-morbidities.”
He said, however, it was “incredibly striking how busy and pressured” hospitals currently were, and they were working “full pelt” to deal with patient backlogs caused by the pandemic.
“We will share the evidence with the country on the 14th of June to basically explain exactly where we are on infection rates, on hospitalisation, and of course, sadly, on deaths,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr.
“We have to be cautious; we have to look at the data and share it with the country.”
Covid restrictions have been eased in stages in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as infection levels, hospitalisations and deaths fell.
A further six people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Sunday, according to Public Health England, bringing the UK total to 127,781.
Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there have now been 153,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
The Government also said that, as of 9am on Sunday, there had been a further 3,240 lab-confirmed cases in the UK.