The Covid crisis in the United Kingdom is worsening, with officials reporting a seven-month high in deaths today, as data suggests an even more transmissible variant is spreading.

The Department of Health reported 223 laboratory-confirmed fatalities, a 23.2% increase over the previous Tuesday’s figure (181). It was the highest number of victims since March 9, when the virus killed 231 people, according to Daily Mail.

Deaths are recorded as those who died within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test, and totals are usually higher on Tuesdays due to a weekend lag.

Cases also increased, with 43,738 new infections recorded, a 13.5% increase over the previous week’s total of 38,520.

Meanwhile, across the four UK countries, 92.7% to 94.1% had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 81.7% to 86.7% were fully vaccinated.

In addition, the number of people admitted to hospitals increased to 921 on Friday, the most recent date for which data is available. It was a 20.2 percent increase over the previous week.

The alarming figures come as experts warn that a subvariant of the Covid Delta strain may be more infectious than its ancestor, based on data showing that the proportion of cases linked to the strain has more than doubled in a month.

Influential Government adviser Professor Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, insisted it was ‘critical we accelerate’ the booster drive to give ourselves the best chance of avoiding having to bring back curbs.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Sajid Javid warned there is ‘huge pressure’ on the NHS in England. 

UK under pressure to reimpose restrictions as COVID cases soar

Many scientists are pressing the British government to reimpose social restrictions and speed up booster vaccinations as coronavirus infection rates, already Europe’s highest, rise still further.

Britain’s vaccination program got off to a quick start, with shots given to the elderly and vulnerable starting last December. That means millions of people have been vaccinated for more than six months, and studies have suggested vaccines’ protection gradually wanes over time.

Last month, the prime minister said the country might need to move to a “Plan B” – reintroducing measures such as mandatory masks and bringing in vaccine passes – if cases rose so high in the autumn and winter that the health system came under intense strain.