The new variant of COVID-19 which pushed London and the South East in to tier four has been found in Cumbria.
The new, highly infectious, variant of the virus is in Cumbria and could be behind recent sharp increases in new cases in some parts of the county, according to Cumbria’s Director of Public Health Colin Cox who is stressing the need for people to continue to make every effort to reduce infection spreading.
As of 20 December the infection rate for Cumbria as a whole had risen to 164 per 100,000 people.
Across the county’s six districts rates range from 40 per 100,000 in Copeland to 345 per 100,000 in Eden.
The Eden infection rate is the now the highest seen in Cumbria to date.
The new variant has been positively identified in a small number of cases in the county and while the extent to which it is responsible for the rapid rise in Eden is not yet certain, the pattern of infection and unusually rapid spread is highly suggestive.
At the moment scientists believe the new variant of the virus is more infectious and does spread faster, but as yet there is no evidence it is more dangerous to health.
Mr Cox said: “It’s pretty clear that while it is the South East of England that is having the worst of it right now, this new variant is already present in most parts of the country.
“Only a small number of cases have been positively identified in Cumbria, but what is happening in Eden, which throughout the pandemic has had low levels of infection and now has the highest we’ve seen, points to something different going on. In particular, the way we have seen some outbreaks develop in recent days has been very different to what we’ve seen before.
“There’s no evidence that it’s more dangerous, but it does infect many more people and that’s a real worry, both for individuals and for our hospitals which are already dealing with high numbers of covid patients.
“The best way of keeping this in check hasn’t changed: wash your hands regularly, wear a face covering in enclosed spaces, give people space and avoid crowds – especially over Christmas. If we don’t act there is a significant risk of a large third wave in January bringing further lockdowns and putting health services under a huge amount of pressure”.