Cases of coronavirus linked to the Indian variant have been detected in Wiltshire but the situation is said to be under control.

The latest virus mutation is threatening the next lift of lockdown restrictions set to come into force no earlier than June 21.

B16172, which is classed as a variant of concern, has been spreading rapidly across England, with cases linked to it doubling in the past week.

While most of them were found in London and in the North West, a "very small" number of infections have also been identified in Wiltshire.

Read more: What the Indian variant could mean for Wiltshire

Today (Tuesday May 18), Wiltshire Council's public health boss has provided an update on the situation in the county, reassuring the public that the steps taken so far have been "effective" in containing the spread.

'Fully contained'

Kate Bluckburn, Wiltshire Council's director of public health, said: "Here in Wiltshire we've had a very small handful of cases confirmed as the Indian variant.

"I'm not going to go into specific details on those but the cases have been responded to using enhanced test and trace methods and working closely with our partners and that's been effective in containing any possible further spread."

Salisbury Journal: Kate Blackburn, Wiltshire Council's director for public healthKate Blackburn, Wiltshire Council's director for public health

Mrs Blackburn stressed that it is "really important" members of the public continue to engage with contact tracers and immediately self-isolate if they develop any Covid symptoms.

Asked whether there are active cases of the Indian variant in the county right now, Mrs Blackburn confirmed that the variant "is in Wiltshire now but it is fully contained".

Mrs Blackburn also confirmed that there has been no rise in cases linked to the new strain in Wiltshire in the past week.

"In terms of Wiltshire specifically, it has been a very small number of cases," she said. 

"We know that the source of the infection has been travel and we've been able to then contain that so that it hasn't gone out into the community.

"That's how we hope things will proceed into the future but it is difficult to contain which is why we're asking people, even with restrictions easing, to remember the best ways to protect yourself (hand washing, mask wearing and social distancing)."

Inevitable cases will increase

Covid cases in Wiltshire have risen slightly in the past seven days.

Although they remain "relatively stable", it is "fairly inevitable" that the increase will continue following the easing of restrictions.

"It's fairly inevitable that case numbers will increase as more and more of society opens up again and the Chief Medical Officer said on Friday that he believes that eventually the Indian variant will be the dominant version of Covid-19 in this country," Mrs Blackburn added.

"The important thing is, no matter what the variant is, we need people to continue with the basic behaviours that have been in place for over a year."

The overall picture

Nationally, 2,323 confirmed cases of the Indian variant have been found in the UK.

Of these, 483 were in Bolton and in Blackburn with Darwen in the North West.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the majority of people admitted to hospital in Bolton had been eligible for the jab but had not taken it up.

Speaking in the Commons on Monday May 17, Mr Hancock said: “The majority have not been vaccinated and, of them, most of them could have been vaccinated, which is frustrating to see, but is also a message to everyone.

“It just reinforces the message that people should come forward and get vaccinated because that is the best way to protect everybody.”

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