A new variant of Covid-19 is currently under investigation in the UK – with 16 confirmed cases to date – Public Health England has announced.
The variant, known as B.1.621, was named a variant under investigation on Wednesday.
PHE is currently analyzing the new strain of the deadly virus responsible for the global health crisis, but stressed that there is currently no evidence to suggest that the new variant makes vaccines less effective or causes more serious illness.
Experts are carrying out tests to better understand the impact of the latest mutation of the coronavirus which is said to have originated in Colombia.
Public Health England said in a statement: “Sixteen confirmed cases of B.1.621 have been identified across the country to date, and the majority have been linked to overseas travel.”
Where was the variant found?
A total of 16 cases of the B.1.621 variant have been detected in the UK so far, all in England.
Ten of the samples were detected in London, while six were from people in their 20s, with two cases among people fully vaccinated.
Most of the cases detected are linked to travel abroad.
PHE said there are currently no signs that the variant is spreading in the community, although he said the stain contains a number of “mutations of concern.”
Tests show that the variant carries the same N501Y mutation that the researchers say made the Alpha Covid variant, first identified in Kent, so transmissible.
Some lab samples also identified the E484K mutation which was found in the Beta strain, first identified in South Africa, which experts warned could partially escape vaccines.
The new variant has also been detected in Colombia (235 cases sequenced), the United States (264 cases sequenced) and Spain (196 cases sequenced), among a number of other countries.
Do vaccines protect?
There is no evidence to suggest that the variant makes coronavirus vaccines less effective, or that it causes more serious illness, according to PHE.
It is not believed to be more deadly than the Delta Covid variant, first identified in India, which currently accounts for 99% of all coronavirus cases in the UK.
Cases of the Delta variant have increased by 33,716 since last week to a total of 286,765.
In a statement, PHE said: “Sixteen confirmed cases of B.1.621 have been identified across the country to date, and the majority have been linked to overseas travel.
“There is currently no evidence of community transmission in the UK.
“There is currently no evidence that this variant causes more severe disease or makes currently deployed vaccines less effective.
“PHE is performing laboratory tests to better understand the impact of mutations on the behavior of the virus.”
Calls for vaccination
The discovery of the new variant comes as the percentage of people testing positive for Covid-19 has increased in almost all parts of England.
ONS data revealed that the north-east of England had the highest proportion of people of any region likely to test positive for Covid-19 in the week to July 17 – roughly one in 45 people.
The North West was close behind with an estimate of one in 55, while the East of England had the lowest estimate at one in 110.
The Northeast is to receive a five-week support program from the government with the aim of slowing the growth of the coronavirus in the region, including additional testing and support to maximize the use of vaccines and tests.
It will be deployed to the seven local authorities in Tyne and Wear, Northumberland and County Durham, and five local authorities in the Tees Valley.
The move comes as similar support in Bedford and much of the North West, which has been in place for six to 10 weeks, is reduced.
The increase in cases across much of the country has renewed calls for people to get vaccinated and make sure they receive both doses for maximum protection.
Dr Jenny Harries, Managing Director of the UK Health Security Agency, said: “These latest hospitalization data shows once again how crucial vaccination is in protecting us from serious illness and death.
“Two doses of the vaccine is much more effective against Covid-19 than a single dose, so be sure to show up for your second dose as soon as you are prompted.
“As we move out of restrictions and immunization coverage continues to increase, it is important to remember that while the protection offered by immunization is great, it is not complete. It is still as important that we continue to exercise caution. ”
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This notice was published: 2021-07-26 09:22:36