The rate of infection in Epping Forest has almost doubled in the last week.

The spike – albeit with infection levels still relatively low – follows reports of five cases (as of June 2) of the Covid-19 Delta variant, previously known as the Indian variant, in the district.

The infection rate has jumped to 18.2 after 24 coronavirus infections were recorded between May 28 and June 4.

The week before 13 new cases were posted – an infection rate of 9.9.

The rate is expressed as the number of new cases per 100,000 people. Data for the most recent four days has been excluded as it is incomplete and does not reflect the true number of cases.

In Harlow, the infection rate has remained stable.

In the seven days to June 4 the rate was recorded at 10.3 after nine new infections were recorded in the town. The week before there had been eight new infection – a rate of 9.2.

Of the 315 local areas in England, 80 per cent have seen a rise in rates.

Blackburn with Darwen in Lancashire continues to have the highest rate, with 833 new cases in the seven days to June 4 – the equivalent of 556.5 cases per 100,000 people.

However, health secretary Matt Hancock has said that hospitalisations for Covid-19 have remained "broadly flat" despite a rise in the Indian variant across the UK.