The pandemic has killed at least 3,790,505 and infected 175,693,415 people worldwide
The British government said on Friday that the new Delta coronavirus variant is 60% more transmissible in households than the variant that forced the UK to lock down in January.
The Delta variant, which first emerged in India, has caused a rise in cases in Britain, prompting questions about whether social distancing restrictions will be lifted as planned from June 21.
New research from Public Health England "suggests that the Delta variant is associated with an approximately 60% increased risk of household transmission" compared to the Alpha variant first identified in southeast England.
So far there have been 42,323 identified cases of the Delta variant in the UK, according to Public Health England's data, up from 29,892 on June 2.
The Alpha variant caused a surge of Covid cases in January before a mass vaccine campaign, leading to a three-month lockdown as hospitals were stretched to near-capacity.
The government has since ramped up its vaccine drive, and has now administered nearly 41 million first doses and nearly 29 million second doses to adults over 25.
This means 43% of the total population are fully vaccinated and 18% are half vaccinated.
But cases are rising again, with new daily infections hitting 7,393 on Thursday, a level not seen since February. More than 90% of new cases were of the Delta variant, the government said.
The government said this suggested the vaccination program is mitigating the impact of the Delta variant, urging the public to get both jabs.
Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said that "two doses provide significantly more protection" against the Delta variant than one. The UK has reported 127,867 deaths from the virus, the highest toll in Europe.
Over 3.7 million dead
The pandemic has killed at least 3,790,505 and infected 175,693,415 people worldwide since the virus first emerged in December 2019, according to an AFP compilation of official data.
On Friday, India reported 91,702 new Covid-19 infections over the past 24 hours, and 3,403 daily deaths from the coronavirus.
The South Asian country's total Covid-19 case load now stands at 29.3 million, while total fatalities are at 363,079, according to data from the health ministry.
In Sweden, health officials warned of worrying local outbreaks of the Covid delta variant and urged people to get vaccinated to avoid a fourth wave of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, South Africa has officially entered its third wave with rising caseloads and a sluggish vaccine rollout fuelling fears of fresh strain on the country's healthcare system.
On Friday, Brazil’s health regulator said it had approved use of the Pfizer/BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine for children over 12 years of age.