UK GOV: “B.1.617.2 has spread rapidly in India based on available data. There have been multiple importations to the UK and onwards transmission within the UK. In some regions, S gene target data suggests that this variant may be more frequent than is indicated by the current sequence data, due to the lag in sequencing, and may have replaced B.1.1.7 to some extent. Modelled growth estimates suggest that the variant is at least as transmissible as B.1.1.7. Further analyses are required with targeted comparator groups and improved correction for importation to refine the position on transmissibility. Some early laboratory data suggest limited antigenic change. There are insufficient data as yet to assess reinfection or vaccine effectiveness through national surveillance.”
Following a rise in cases in the UK and evidence of community transmission, PHE has reclassified B.1.617.2 as a Variant of Concern (VOC). This is based on evidence which suggests this variant, first detected in India, is at least as transmissible as B.1.1.7 (the Kent variant). The other characteristics of this variant are still being investigated.
Cases of B.1.617.2 have increased to 520 from 202 over the last week and almost half the cases are related to travel or contact with a traveller. The cases are spread across the country, however, the majority of the cases are in 2 areas – the North West (predominantly Bolton) and London – and this is where we are seeing the greatest transmission.
The UK government is thought to have detected more than 40 clusters of the Indian Covid variant B.1.617 in the UK, and is on the verge of declaring it a “variant of concern”. The mutant strain is thought to be driving the massive surge of infections in India.
A report issued by the UK government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) found the likelihood that a variant of concern (VOC) that has arisen in humans could infect a rodent and then spread among the animals is high. Researchers say lab evidence indicates that while rats and mice appear unable to contract the most common forms of coronavirus COVID-19, the N501Y spike protein mutation “has an increased affinity” for rodents.
The report said: “There is a plausible pathway for infection of rodents with new variants of concern from infected humans following contamination of an environment. “Experimental evidence has shown SARS-CoV-2 with N501Y has increased affinity for lab rodents and there is nothing to suggest the same would not be true for wild rodents.
SAGE: Coronavirus (COVID-19) response, 8 April 2021
India has been added to a “red list” of countries from which most travel to the UK is banned over fears of a new Covid variant [B.1.617], the health secretary has said. From 04:00 BST on Friday, most people who have travelled from India in the last 10 days will be refused entry. British or Irish passport holders, or people with UK residence rights, will be allowed in but must quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days.
People in the UK have been infected with Covid-19 more than once thanks to catching different variants of the coronavirus. Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser for NHS Test and Trace, said there had been cases where people had become reinfected by different strains of the coronavirus. “We have seen some people who have had their first dose of vaccine who have had the South African variant and the variant that arose in Kent,” she told BBC’s the Andrew Marr show. “You can see that they’re not as good against the South African variant as they are against our own (variant) B117 at preventing infection and transmission.”
Professor Paul Hunter, an epidemiologist at the University of East Anglia, analysed publicly available information on new variant numbers last Saturday and again yesterday and found that the number of genetically-confirmed Indian strain cases had risen in a week from 79 to 160. ‘That’s a big jump,’ he said.
Because only around a quarter of identified Covid cases undergo genomic sequencing to identify the strain, he feared the true figure was at least 400.
Prof Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, told the Guardian that the arrival of the India variant was potentially worrying. He said: “These two escape mutations working together could be a lot more problematic than the South African and Brazilian variants which have only got one escape mutation. “It might be even less controlled by vaccine than the Brazilian and South African variants.”
The variant featured two “escape mutations” – E484Q and L452R – that “are causing people to be concerned. “There’s laboratory evidence that both of these are escape mutations. Basically, applying what we know about other human coronaviruses would suggest that this is going to be even less controlled by vaccine. But we don’t know that for certain at the moment”
The few remaining coronavirus hotspots in London seem to be concentrated around Heathow airport and in the central London area around Whitehall, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly and The Strand.
People living and working in Barnet, north London, are being urged to get a Covid-19 test after a case of the South African variant was found. Those in the N3 postcode area are being asked to get a test either at home or go to a mobile testing unit. Barnet Council said teams of officials will go door-to-door in areas in area to deliver PCR test kits, and a mobile testing unit will be set up in the car park of Finchley Central Station.
A statement on the council’s website said: “The South African variant of Covid-19 has been found in Barnet. “From Thursday 15 April we will start testing people for this variant in specific postcode areas affected in N3 or those who shop on the local high street.”