Original article from Kent Live
New data shows that Kent has the lowest infection rate in the entire country for the feared Indian variant of coronavirus.
With thousands of new cases of the strain being detected across England over the last week, just 29 of them were here in the county.
It means Kent's infection rate of just 9.5 per 100,000 people was the lowest of all, out of some 58 upper tier local authority areas.
And that is despite one of its districts – Canterbury – having some of the highest numbers in the South East.
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Another 12 new cases were detected there between May 8 and May 14, making it a total of 21 over the last two weeks.
Outside of Canterbury however, the picture in Kent looks more positive.
Dartford has recorded the next highest number over the last two weeks with just seven cases, including three in the last week.
Meanwhile both Dover and Medway are yet to record a single case.
The numbers come from Public Health England data showing where variants of concern are believed to be most prevalent.
To track it most easily, they have been looking for positive samples containing something known as the S gene.
It's a gene which is not present in the dominant Kent variant, but is detected in several of the new variants including those from India.
Out of all the specimens with the S gene found in May so far, some 93 per cent were determined to be the feared new Indian variant known as B1.617.2.
Therefore scientists believe that by tracking the S gene, they can track the spread of the Indian variant slightly more quickly, without having to wait for full genomic sequencing.
The numbers below cover the number of positive results containing the S gene, showing new cases over the last recorded week (between May 8 and May 14) and total cases since May 2, when Public Health England first provided localised breakdowns.
|Area||New cases||Total cases|
|Folkestone & Hythe||1||2|
|Tonbridge & Malling||2||2|
Across the country, there was however another significant increase in new cases of the variant.
The latest data showed numbers had comfortably more than doubled again, suggesting fears may be correct that the strain is significantly more transmissible.
In the week up to May 19, there were 3,424 new cases, up from 1,313 the week before.
In more positive news, the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines have been shown to be highly effective against the variant after two doses.
A Public Health England study found two jabs of either vaccine give a similar level of protection against symptomatic disease from the Indian variant as they do for the Kent one.
However, both vaccines were only 33% effective against the Indian variant three weeks after the first dose, compared with 50% effectiveness against the Kent variant.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to get their second jabs, particularly in light of the findings.