The Latest: UK official says variant may delay lockdown lift

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s health secretary says the delta variant, which is fast becoming the dominant coronavirus variant in the U.K., is 40% more transmissible compared to the country’s existing strains.

Matt Hancock acknowledged Sunday that the rise in delta variant cases may delay the government’s plan to lift most remaining lockdown restrictions on June 21. He also said he wouldn’t rule out continuing measures such as face masks in public settings and working from home where possible.

Optimism that Britain can vaccinate its way out of the pandemic took a dent in recent weeks with growing concern that infections are again rising, fueled by the delta variant. More than 12,400 cases of the delta variant have been confirmed so far in the U.K.

On Friday the country recorded 6,238 new coronavirus cases, the highest number since late March. The figure came down to 5,765 on Saturday.

Authorities said Sunday they will start offering the COVID-19 vaccine to people under 30 from this week in hopes that the vaccine program can help combat the renewed surge in infections.

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