MORE than 1500 new cases of the Delta coronavirus variant have been confirmed in Scotland in the last week, new data shows.

Official figures show that across the UK around 90% of cases come from the faster-spreading variant – which was first identified in India.

We reported yesterday how infections have more than quadrupled in Scotland in a month, with figures today revealing 3,035 cases of the variant have been identified here to date - including 1524 in the past week.

In England, 39,061 cases have now been confirmed through sequencing and/or genotyping - up 28,264 in the past week - along with 184 in Wales and 43 in Northern Ireland.

Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said: “With numbers of Delta variant cases on the rise across the country, vaccination is our best defence.

“If you are eligible, we urge you to come forward and be vaccinated. Remember that two doses provide significantly more protection than a single dose.

“However, while vaccination reduces the risk of severe disease, it does not eliminate it.

“With data showing that Delta is significantly more transmissible than Alpha, it is just as important as ever to follow public health advice, which has not changed.

“Get vaccinated, work from home where you can and remember ‘hands, face, space, fresh air’ at all times. These measures work, and they save lives.”

Research suggests that the variant is associated with an approximately 60% increased risk of household transmission compared with the Alpha or Kent strain.

Dr Hans Kluge, the World Health Organisation’s director for Europe, warned that the Delta variant was “poised to take hold in the region” as many countries prepare to ease restrictions.

He cautioned that it had shown signs of being able to evade some vaccines and that some vulnerable people remain unprotected.

"We have been here before," said Dr Kluge. "Over the course of last summer, cases gradually rose in younger age groups and then moved into older age groups, contributing to a devastating resurgence."

Dr Kluge said that the spike in Covid-19 cases ultimately led to more lockdowns and deaths in the autumn and winter of 2020, adding: "Let's not make that mistake again."

Earlier this week Nicola Sturgeon said 5% of people who tested positive for the coronavirus in May had gone on to require hospital treatment, compared to around 10% at the beginning of the year, as vaccines weakened the link between infection and serious illness.

The latest data for Scotland shows that there were 5,709 new cases detected in the seven days to June 10, up from 1,335 in the week ending May 10.

The number of patients in hospital with Covid has climbed from 72 to 124 over the same period, with intensive care numbers rising from six to 14.

Five of the 14 ICU patients are in hospitals in Ayrshire - the highest number of any health board.

However, the vast majority of hospital admissions are now being made up by unvaccinated patients under-65 - especially under-50s - who are less likely to become critically ill.

Vaccination figures show that nearly 53% of adults in Scotland have now had both vaccine doses, with 77% having had at least one dose.

However, around 85,000 people aged 16 to 64 in Scotland who are considered "clinically vulnerable" due to pre-existing health conditions remain completely unvaccinated. This equates to around 11% of people in this priority group.

There are also nearly 17,000 people (14%) working in non-care home frontline social care roles who have yet to receive even a single vaccine dose.

This could be due to choice, missing appointments or medical reasons, such as severe allergies.