Coronavirus cases involving the so-called Indian variant are continuing to soar, threatening the further relaxation of lockdown rules scheduled for next month.

Data from Public Health England (PHE) published on Thursday (May 13) shows a steep rise in cases associated with B16172, which has been designated as a “variant of concern”.

Cases went from 520 to 1,313 in the space of one week.

If the new strain is proved to be "significantly more transmissible" than other virus mutations, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said "hard choices" may lie ahead.

Read more: Spread of Indian variant could mean more 'hard choices' to come

To tackle the rise in cases associated with the Indian variant, remaining second doses for the over-50s will be accelerated and will now come eight weeks after the first.

Those who are clinically vulnerable will also see their second jabs brought forward while anyone eligible who has not yet come forward will be prioritised - including the over 40s.

What is the new variant?

The Indian variant is a new strain of coronavirus first identified in India, a country which is currently battling a deadly second wave.

It is thought to be more infectious than the Kent variant but at present, there is no evidence to suggest it is resistant to Covid vaccines.

It's likely to have reached the UK as a result of international travel.

Where was it found?

The majority of cases detected in the UK were found in England, particularly in the North West and London.

Bolton, Sefton and Blackburn are the most-affected areas in the North West.

In Bolton, mobile testing units have been deployed and door-to-door PCR Covid-19 testing has been offered to 22,000 residents.

Surge testing is taking place in Sefton and parts of London.

Should we be concerned in Wiltshire?

Earlier this week, the council's director for public health confirmed that a "very small" number of Covid variants had been identified in the county.

However, these are "nothing of concern" and steps have been taken to prevent their spread.

Kate Blackburn said: “We’ve had a very small number of variants under investigation.

“They have all been managed, the steps that were required of the individual in terms of isolation were all done so there was no onward risk into the community.”

Asked whether any Indian variants specifically had been identified in Wiltshire, Mrs Blackburn said: “We’ve had a couple of variants under investigation cases but nothing of concern for the wider community at all.

“We know where the source was and we know that there has been no onward transmission – hence no requirement for surge testing.”

According to the latest figures from Public Health England, 79 infections were recorded in the Wiltshire Council area in the week to May 9 - an increase of four on the week before.

Most parts of Wiltshire remain virtually Covid-free, meaning they recorded either no cases at all or up to two in the latest weekly period to date.

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