Cumbria’s director of public health has warned that the biggest concern with coronavirus now is new variants coming into the fray.

The warning came after a week where reports of a new ‘California variant’ have been revealed, with cases being spotted mainly in the United States but a small number in the UK.

It is variants thought to be more infectious like this one and the South African variant reported in the UK earlier this year that are a cause for concern when it comes to vaccination.

Mr Cox has welcomed the lockdown easing but made it clear that we are not out of the woods yet and that guidelines must be followed to ensure we do not see the virus come back.

“I am glad to see it is being done as a county and that it is being done slowly and carefully,” he said.

“I think as long as we recognise the fact that we have got a roadmap does not mean that people act like this is all over, we still have to stick to regulations to make sure we are not getting out and seeing people when we shouldn’t be doing as this virus still could come back even though the vaccine is doing as good job.

“If we relax things too quickly it could come back, it is still out there.”

Mr Cox highlighted that new variants and vaccines potentially being less effective against them is the key concern for health services now.

“Obviously there is always concern over new variants and any new variant that is more transmissible is a threat,” he added.

“The Kent variant for example is now absolutely the dominant strain in the country as it stands.

“It makes up around 95 per cent of all new cases. It has completely taken over.

“Lots of strains are more transmissible but not as much as the Kent variant.

“The other concern is whether or not that new strains are as susceptible to the vaccine like with the concerns around the South Africa variant.

“That is why it is always more concerning with those types of variants. The problem is not that it spreads more easily, but that it infects more easily, the way it spreads once it gets to a person.

This follows announcements last week from Cumbria County Council that there are now 11 different Covid-19 rapid result lateral flow testing sites.

Mr Cox revealed that, according to a recent publication from NHS England, so far, those that have been given their first vaccine jab stands at 21,155 in Barrow (39.2 per cent of those over 18) and 36,953 in South Lakeland (42.4 per cent of adults over 18).