UK CASES of the Indian coronavirus variant have risen by 75 per cent in the last week, official data has revealed.
India has been put on the UK’s travel ‘red list’ as Covid infections continue to rise in the country.
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It is not yet clear how infectious the Indian variant is and if it will be able to evade vaccinesCredit: Getty
Public health officials in India have claimed that soaring case rates in the country could be down to a new “triple mutant” – but it’s not yet clear if it is more infectious and if it can evade vaccines.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced four days ago that India would go on the red list, and at that point 103 cases of the Indian variant (B.1.617) had been found in England.
This had been an increase from 77 cases on April 7.
Data from Public Health England (PHE) has now revealed that there are currently 132 cases in the country.
The Times reported that almost half of the cases had been reported in London in areas with significant Indian migration.
Genomic sequencing helps pick up new variants and has been vital in the detection of the Kent variant, as well as the South African and Brazilian variants.
Genomic analysis is only carried out on around 15 per cent of cases, so the true impact of the Indian variant could be much larger.
The experts said that around 39 cases of the variant were thought to have been passed on through this country.
They added that the majority of contacts were travellers but that three cases had been picked up through random checks.
Response director for Covid-19 at PHE, Susan Hopkins said all measures are being taken to protect public health.
She said: “We do not yet know how transmissible it is, the level of severity of illness it causes, or whether it can escape natural or vaccine derived immunity, but this is under constant review.
“Ongoing close surveillance shows that this variant accounts for less than one per cent of all test samples sent for analysis.”
WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR
Experts in India have already discovered a strain dubbed a ‘double mutant’ or B.1.617, which carries two mutations to the spike protein, E484Q and L452R.
The so-called Bengal variant, known as B.1.618, is thought to carry three mutations and experts fear it could be driving infection rates.
India has recorded 15.9 million cases of infection, the second highest after the United States, and 184,657 deaths.
There is currently no lockdown in place in India to curb the rise in infectionsCredit: Reuters
Yesterday the country recorded a further 314,835 new daily cases which experts say, is due to authorities putting public health on the backburner in favour of running Hindu religious festivals or elections.
Professor Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India warned that this, with a combination of the new Bengal variant, could be driving the surge in cases.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme he said: “Basically a double mutant was first reported from the state of Maharashtra, and that had features that were previously noted in Brazil and South Africa and then in California – and they combined to form the double mutant.
“Another mutant has been described from the state of West Bengal it has also been found in some other parts in India,.
“While the double mutant has now been noted in more than 20 countries, this mutant, the triple mutant which has just been described, has been tracked in India and I’m sure it will be tracked elsewhere too.”
Prof Reddy said it was not yet clear how dangerous it is in terms of “infectivity and whether or not it can escape vaccines”.
He added: “That’s all to be studied at the moment. But in West Bengal and other districts in India it does appear that this is ramping up the cases.”
Experts in India say the Bengal variant was first discovered in October and that by January, it had been found in large numbers of people.