86 local authorities in the UK have now recorded five or more confirmed cases of the Indian variant of Covid-19, Matt Hancock has confirmed.

Speaking in Commons the Health Secretary warned: “This isn’t just about Bolton and Blackburn.”

Matt Hancock told the House of Commons on Monday that while the B1617.2 variant seemed more transmissible, the evidence suggested vaccines were effective against it.

Mr Hancock said there were now 2,323 confirmed cases of B1617.2 in the UK – of which 483 were in Bolton and Blackburn with Darwen, where it is now the dominant strain.

He said cases there had doubled in the last week and were rising in all age groups.

Mr Hancock also told MPs there were 86 local authorities where there are five or more confirmed cases, with Bedford the “next biggest cause of concern”.

His warning came after Boris Johnson cautioned last week that the spread of the Indian variant could jeopardise plans for the final lifting of lockdown in England.

Downing Street said updates on plans for domestic coronavirus “passports”, announcements on easing social distancing requirements and further guidance on weddings, due later this month, could now be delayed.

“We need time to assess the latest data on this variant first identified in India so I’m not going to give a set time for doing that,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters on Monday.

It came as restrictions were eased across much of the UK with the return of indoor socialising and the reopening of pubs and restaurants for indoor dining and drinking.

Ministers have however urged people to exercise caution in enjoying their new freedoms amid fears among some scientists about a possible resurgence of the disease.

Mr Hancock said the easing had been possible as there were now fewer than 1,000 people in hospital in the UK with coronavirus, while the average number of daily deaths had fallen to just nine.

He added: “While we can take this step today we must be humble in the face of this virus.

“In a pandemic we must look not just where we are today but where the evidence shows where we may be weeks and months down the track.”