London and Bolton have seen outbreaks of the highly infectious coronavirus variant, with the number of cases in the UK rising above 500 following a large jump, officials said today

People living in areas where the Indian Covid variant is spreading could be advised to limit their socialising, a healthcare chief warned today.
Earlier on Friday the mutant strain was confirmed as a “variant of concern” amid fears it could be more transmissible than the Kent variant, which fuelled England’s second wave and forced the country back into lockdown in December.
London and Bolton have seen significant outbreaks, Public Health England said today.
Latest figures show cases of the variant in the UK have increased to 520 from 202 over the last week, and almost half of these cases are related to travel or contact with a traveller.
But experts say there is currently “insufficient evidence” suggesting that the variant can make vaccines less effective.
Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said communities where the variant was spreading would be advised to take extra precautions – beyond what might be permitted nationally.
Dr Jenny Harries said people in areas with significant outbreaks would be advised to be careful when socialising (Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
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But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said it is unlikely regional restrictions would be introduced.
“Yes, we should be concerned,” Dr Harries said, when asked about the Indian variant, which she said had been “rising quite sharply in the last week or two”.
“We really do want people to be extra cautious. We are taking a whole host of steps to ensure that in areas where we have seen that (rising cases), we have enhanced contact tracing, we are going in with messaging, working with local communities, with directors of public health to ensure that people are really aware of the potential risks.
“We are encouraging people to continue working from home… socialise outdoors even if the situation and the rules change – it is really important people continue to do that.
“This is likely to be a bit of a pattern as we go forward, so we need the public to do everything that they have been doing in sticking to the rules, but in those particular areas to be particularly careful.”
The number of confirmed cases of the Indian variant has risen above 500 in the UK (file image) (Image: AFP via Getty Images)
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The cases are spread across the country, with the majority in two areas – the North West, mainly in Bolton, and London, PHE said.
The decision to reclassify the variant is based on evidence which suggests it is at least as transmissible as a strain known as the Kent variant, PHE said.
Mr Shapps said he did not envisage having to “go back to those bad old days” of when a regionalised system of coronavirus restrictions was required to control high infection rates in certain parts of England.
Half of known cases have been linked to international travel, health officials said (Image: AFP via Getty Images)
Asked whether future localised outbreaks could see people from some regions banned from travelling, the Transport Secretary told a press conference: “As we come out of this lockdown, we’ve got this four-stage road map and, as you will have noted, we haven’t gone back into a tiered situation.
“That’s possible actually because, overall, our levels are so much lower and where they are low overall, where prevalence is low, you are able to take a much more national approach to all of this.
“I very much hope that we are not going back to those bad old days of very high levels of enormous prevalence and the rest of it, because we’ve got the one thing we didn’t have when we got down to these very low levels last time around, and that is of course the vaccine.
“We are much better positioned this year with vaccines, with testing, with genomic sequencing, to not need to take that localised approach and so far, so good.”
Earlier today Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned: “I think we’ve got to be very careful about that.
“We’re doing a huge amount, obviously, to make sure that where we do find outbreaks of the Indian variant that we do surge testing, that we do door-to-door testing and isolate it.
“And also have very tough controls on transport and on people coming in.”
He later added on a visit to Hartlepool after the Tories’ election victory there: “We have to bear in mind that Covid isn’t over.”
But he said he could not see a reason why any of the steps of the roadmap should be delayed.
Asked if the Indian variant could scupper the lifting of restrictions, he said: “I don’t see that, we don’t have that evidence at the moment, no.”