NEW DELHI: A highly infectious new double mutant Covid-19 variant that was first detected in India has now been found in the UK sparking calls for Boris Johnson to cancel his trip to India.
The B1617 variant was on Thursday designated a ‘variant under investigation’ by Public Health England meaning it has concerning epidemiological, immunological or pathogenic properties and requires investigation. PHE said that up to 14 April it had identified 77 cases of the India variant in Britain – 73 cases in England and four in Scotland.
Variants first detected in Kent in the UK, Brazil and South Africa have subsequently been designated ‘variants of concern’ in the UK. The Kent (UK) variant (also known as B117) remains the dominant variant in Britain.
PHE said: “The variant, first detected in India, includes a number of mutations including E484Q, L452R, and P681R.”
E484Q and L452R are separately found in other coronavirus variants, but they were found together for the first time in India.
“PHE has identified 77 cases of this variant in the UK and all appropriate public health interventions will be undertaken, including enhanced contact tracing. PHE and international partners continue to monitor the situation closely,” PHE said.
Together, E484Q and L452R are known to be more infectious, more transmissible and to evade antibodies. It is likely the India variant is at least in part driving the current exponential rise in cases in India which is putting pressure on India’s healthcare infrastructure.
Professor Christina Pagel, a member of Independent Sage, a group of independent scientists providing scientific advice to the UK government, who is director of the Operational Research Unit at UCL, tweeted: “B1617 is worrying because it has some potentially worrying mutations NOT seen in SA, Kent or Brazil strains. This variant might escape both T-cell and antibody action. India going through a big surge – mix of B117 & new B1617. Johnson should not go on a trip to Delhi this month! madness! You can’t transmit Covid by Zoom. The situation in India is very bad and worsening. It is frankly insane that Bangladesh and Pakistan are

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