Research shows that the UK’s vaccines are proving effective in both reducing the spread of Covid-19 and breaking the link between infection and hospitalisation.
But with large pockets of the population still unprotected, a rise in cases is to be expected, scientists says, as restrictions are eased and people come into more contact with one another.
According to the latest weekly surveillance report from PHE, there have been small increases in seven out of nine of England’s regions.
In the North West the rate was 32.6 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to 9 May, up from 25.5 the previous week, while in the East Midlands it increased from 23.1 to 29.8 over the same period.
Slight increases were also recorded in the East of England, London, North East and South-West, which had the lowest rate at 13.1, up from 12.2.
Yorkshire and the Humber recorded the highest rate at 40.5 cases per 100,000 people, down slightly from 42.5 in the previous week.
It comes as fears rise over the Indian variant, known as B1.617.2, which has sparked numerous outbreaks and is now thought to be circulating on a community level in some parts of the country.
There is confidence among experts that the current generation of vaccines will be able to neutralise B1.617.2 – though its high transmissibility has sparked concern within No 10, which has called an urgent meeting of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).
For the week ending 1 May, more than 10 per cent of cases in England, excluding imported infections, were caused by B1.617.2, according to the Sanger Institute. These were concentrated in the North West, London and East of England.
Up to 5 May, a total of 520 cases of B1.617.2 had been detected in England, though it is believed this figure has since significantly increased.
Meanwhile, the latest Test and Trace figures show that a total of 14,313 people tested positive for Covid-19 in England at least once in the week to 5 May.
This is down 9 per cent on the previous week and is the lowest number since the week to 2 September.
Case rates in England have remained stable among most age groups, with a slight rise in children, teenagers and people in their 40s, PHE said.
The age group with the highest rates was those aged 10 to 19 with 51.5 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to 9 May, up week-on-week from 42.4.
Other age groups reporting slight increases were five to nine-year-olds, up from 16.5 to 18.5; and 40 to 49-year-olds, up from 25.0 to 26.3.
The lowest case rates were in those aged 80 and above at 4.1.