Coronavirus Pandemic

Version of Indian Covid-19 variant now a ‘concern’ in UK

Prasun Sonwalkar/London
Filed on May 7, 2021

(Reuters file)

B.1.617.2 variant is one of the major causes of the recent surge in infections in India.

Several days after investigating rising cases of three Indian variants in the United Kingdom, public health officials on Friday reclassified one of them as a ‘Variant of Concern’, which involves surge testing and more focus on identifying and dealing with it.

Public Health England (PHE) said following a rise in cases in the UK and evidence of community transmission, it has reclassified the variant identified as B.1.617.2 as a Variant of Concern, based on evidence which suggests this variant, first detected in India, is at least as transmissible as B.1.1.7 (the Kent variant).

The B.1.617.2 variant is reported to be one of the major causes of the recent surge in infections in India.

The other two versions of the Indian variant, identified as B.1.617 and B.1.617.3, have also been detected across the UK: 261 cases of the former and nine of the latter. But current evidence does not meet the threshold to reclassify them as Variants of Concern.

PHE said it is carrying out laboratory testing, in collaboration with academic and international partners to better understand the impact of the mutations on the behaviour of the virus.

Cases of B.1.617.2 have increased to 520 from 202 over the last week and almost half the cases are related to travel or contact with a traveller. The cases are spread across the country, however, the majority of the cases are in two areas – the North West (predominantly Bolton) and London – where officials are seeing the greatest transmission.

India's Covid surge pressures Modi to impose lockdown

Under surge testing, everyone in the affected areas will be asked to get a test, even if they do not have symptoms. If someone tests positive, they must isolate to stop the spread, PHE said.

Susan Hopkins of PHE said: “The way to limit the spread of all variants is the same and although we are all enjoying slightly more freedom, the virus is still with us. Keep your distance, wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, cover your nose and mouth when inside and keep buildings well ventilated and meet people from other households outside”.

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