The Indian variant of coronavirus appears to be spreading quickly in different parts of the country and could yet put a return to normal life in the UK on hold.

There has been a 44% weekly increase in the number of areas in England that have recorded a case.

Figures from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, first reported by Sky News, found that the Indian variant had been detected in 127 local authorities in the week ending May 8 - compared with 71 the week before.

However, 40 of the 127 areas only identified one case.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Monday that 2,323 cases of the more transmissible variant had now been recorded in the UK - a number that has likely risen since his statement.

So what about in our region?

We know that there have been cases located in the Sefton area - where surge testing has been deployed in a bid to clamp down on the spread of the variant.

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The Wellcome Sanger Institute uses weekly data as a rolling average of a two week period.

It identified an average of 62 weekly cases of the Indian variant in Sefton based on the data from the weeks ending May 1 and May 8.

The good news in Sefton is that the quick work to try and contain the outbreak - which centred on the Formby area - appears to be working.

The overall infection rate had reached close to 60 cases per 100,000 people at the end of last week and is now down at 33.5.

The Wellcome Sanger data also suggests there have been a very small number of cases of the India variant detected elsewhere in our region.

In Liverpool, the Institute sequenced a weekly average of 4.5 cases of the variant based on data across the two weeks mentioned above.

There was an average of 0.5 cases located in Knowsley in that time, 0.5 cases on the Halton borough and an average of 1.5 cases in the St Helens area.

These are all very small numbers and the good news is they don't seem to have had a large impact on the overall infection rates in these boroughs.

Liverpool's infection rate remains low at around 10 cases per 100,000, Knowsley is on 13 cases per 100,000 and Wirral on just 10.

St Helens' rate is a little higher at 20 cases per 100,000 - but this is still very low compared with what we have seen at earlier points in the pandemic.

Importantly, scientists believe B.1.617.2 does not cause more severe disease than the currently dominant Kent variant, and indications are that vaccines are also effective.