Coronavirus Pandemic

Covid-19 variant first detected in India found in UK

Prasun Sonwalkar/London
Filed on April 16, 2021 | Last updated on April 16, 2021 at 11.55 am
Photo: Reuters

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Britain’s public health authorities have announced that the variant first detected in India and reported to be spreading fast there, has been identified in 77 cases across the United Kingdom, designating it as a "variant under investigation".

Public Health England (PHE), the executive body under the Department of Health and Social Care, said on Thursday evening that the India variant, known as B.1.617, includes a number of mutations including E484Q, L452R, and P681R.

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“PHE has identified 77 cases of this variant in the UK and all appropriate public health interventions will be undertaken, including enhanced contact tracing. This variant has been designated VUI-21APR-01. PHE and international partners continue to monitor the situation closely,” it said in a statement.

If investigations reveal that the variant is more infectious or more resistant to anti-bodies, it will be designated a ‘variant of concern’, similar to the ones detected in South Africa, Brazil, and Kent (the UK variant).

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Currently, ‘surge testing’, which includes door-to-door testing, is being conducted in London neighbourhoods such as Barnet, Lambeth, and Southwark for the South African variant, amidst an overall decline in the number of new infections, hospitalisation, and deaths in the UK in the past few weeks.

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Christina Pagel, director of the Clinical Operational Research Unit at University College London, raised concerns about the India variant, calling for the country to be included on the ‘red list’ of nations from where arrivals are banned.

In early April, the UK banned travel from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the Philippines to prevent the importation of ‘variants of concern’.

Pagel, who is part of the ‘Independent SAGE’ group of experts that closely monitors Covid-19-related developments, tweeted that following the India variant’s detection, Prime Minister Boris Johnson should not travel to India later this month on the scheduled official visit.

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