Updated: May 8, 2021 7:48:57 am
Health authorities in England on Friday labelled one subtype of the so-called Indian variant as a variant of concern (VOC), following a rise in the number of cases in the UK and evidence of community transmission.
The B.1.617.2, which had been classified as a variant under investigation (VUI) on April 28, is now known as VOC-21APR-02 after it was found to be at least as transmissible as the so-called Kent variant, detected in England last year and the dominant variant in the UK so far.
“Cases of VOC-21APR-02 have increased to 520 from 202 over the last week and almost half the cases are related to travel or contact with a traveller,” Public Health England (PHE) said.
The cases are spread across the country, but the majority of the cases are in two areas: the north west of England — predominantly Bolton — and London.
PHE, however, said there was insufficient evidence to suggest if the variant was more dangerous or if it could escape vaccine protection.
“The other characteristics of this variant are still being investigated. There is currently insufficient evidence to indicate that any of the variants recently detected in India cause more severe disease or render the vaccines currently deployed any less effective.”
PHE 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, it said.
Surge and community testing were effective ways of finding and isolating new cases of variants and will be deployed where there is evidence of community transmission, PHE said. This is in addition to comprehensive work that is already underway to trace and test all contacts of cases.
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