Indian Covid strain upgraded to 'variant of concern' as clusters erupt in parts of UK
A STRAIN of the Indian coronavirus variant has now been classed as one of concern, Public Health England (PHE) has revealed.
The B.1.617.2 strain is now the fifth variant of concern in the country.
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It comes as leaked data revealed that cases of the variant have soared by 150 per cent in a week as 48 clusters have been detected in the UK.
Around 500 cases of the B.1.617.2 variant have been detected across England with the highest levels in London and the North West.
Last week data from Public Health England (PHE) showed that there were just 202 officially recorded cases and experts fear that the strain could spread faster than the two other sub types of the Indian variant that have also been identified in the UK.
Today PHE said that cases have increased to 520 from 202 over the last week and almost half the cases are related to travel or contact with a traveller.
They added that while cases are spread across the country, the majority are in London and Bolton in Greater Manchester.
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Health experts in Bolton had reportedly urged the government to deploy surge testing in the area this week after cases of both the South African and Indian variant were detected.
PHE today said it would work with local authorities and Test and Trace to detect cases and limit the spread.
Surge testing is now set to be rolled out in certain areas where cases have been detected.
Everyone in these areas will be asked to get a test even if they don't have symptoms.
Dr Susan Hopkins, Covid-19 Strategic Response Director at PHE said the way to limit the spread of variants has not changed.
She reiterated the hands, face, space and fresh air message and urged people to get tested if they are told to, if they have symptoms or if they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive.
Dr Hopkins added: "We are monitoring all of these variants extremely closely and have taken the decision to classify this as a variant of concern because the indications are that this VOC-21APR-02 is a more transmissible variant.”
PHE today said the variant is as transmissible as the Kent variant that was detected last year and was the reason for the third national coronavirus lockdown.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was also today asked how concerned he was about the Indian variant.
He said: "I think we’ve got to be very careful about that.
"We’re doing a huge amount, obviously, to make sure that where we do find outbreaks of the Indian variant that we do surge testing, that we do door-to-door testing and isolate it.
"And also have very tough controls on transport and on people coming in.”
Speaking on Good Morning Britain today Dr Amir Khan said there are three sub types of the Indian variant.
He added: "The one we are most concerned about is the B.1.617.2 sub type which has been responsible for these 48 clusters around England, there have also been cases in Northern Ireland and Wales.
There was an outbreak in a nursing home in London where 14 residents who had both doses of the vaccine got infected with the Indian variant, all have made a full recovery."
He added that it's all about community transmission.
Dr Amir said: "We are seeing a surge of cases in India itself, on the background there where they have the UK variant, we are now seeing a surge in this Indian variant, so it may well be more transmissible.
"There is some evidence that it can evade the immune response triggered by the vaccine, so it's a real concern and something we really need to get on top of."
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