UK News

Indian strain of coronavirus likely to be declared ‘variant of concern’ after cases discovered in England UK News

A strain of coronavirus first detected in India is likely to be elevated to ‘variant of concern’ after clusters are found in several parts of England, according to reports.

Cases of the variant have been found in schools, retirement homes and places of worship in the North West, London and the East Midlands, largely linked to travel, Channel 4 News reported.

The broadcaster said it was “highly likely” to be declared a “variant of concern” on Friday, although cases remain relatively low.

Such a change may mean an escalation in the response from Public Health England (PHE), including the ordering of surge tests.

The strain – B1617.2 – is one of three related variants first seen in India that have been detected in the UK and designated “under investigation” by PHE.

The others are B1617.1 and B1617.3.

According to Channel 4 News, there have been at least 48 clusters of B1617.2, although the overall numbers remain low.

PHE said updates on the number of cases due for release Thursday were delayed due to “processing issues.”

According to the most recent data from PHE, there have been 193 confirmed cases of the B1617.1 variant, up 61 since the last update on April 21.

The first report on the B1617.2 variant shows 202 cases, and the first report on the B1617.3 variant shows only five cases.

According to internal PHE documents, dated May 5 and viewed by The Guardian, the continued public health risk of the B1617.2 variant subtype is “high.”

Dr Deepti Gurdasani, clinical epidemiologist and senior lecturer at Queen Mary University in London, told The Guardian that “at the current doubling rate (B1617.2) could easily become dominant in London by the end of May or early June”.

It comes as seven confirmed cases of the B1617.2 variant have been detected in Northern Ireland – the first found in the region.

Chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride said the news was “not entirely unexpected” and plans were in place “for such an eventuality”.

Health experts said they “had seen no clue” of a current variant of Covid that may entirely evade the effectiveness of vaccines.

The Ministry of Health and Social Affairs and the PES have been contacted for comment by the Press Association.