India strain found in England stated as “variant of concern”

London: Seven cases of the Indian variant of coronavirus have been found in the UK’s Bedfordshire county, hours after health officials here elevated the subtype from under investigation to a Variant of Concern (VOC).

The variant, known as VOC-21APR-02, was identified after genetic sequencing was carried out on positive COVID-19 tests.

Public Health England (PHE) has said a variant of Covid-19 first detected in India has become “a variant of concern”.

Cases of this variant have more than doubled over the last week, officials said.

PHE said its reclassification as a “variant of concern” comes from evidence suggesting it is at least as trasmissible as the Kent variant.

The public health body said there is “insufficient evidence” at the moment to indicate any of the variants recently detected in India cause more severe disease or make the vaccines available any less effective.

In late April, officials said two new Covid-19 variants first identified in India had been detected in England – including the one previously known as B16172.

Nearly half of these cases are related to travel or contact with a traveller, according to new data.

The cases are spread across the country, with the majority in northwest England – mainly in Bolton – and London, PHE said.

Surge testing will be deployed where there is evidence of community transmission, PHE added.

The variant was first detected in India, which is currently in the throes of a devastating second wave of coronavirus.

Public Health England now have five variants classified as “variants of concern” – including the Brazil and South Africa variants.

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