Parts of the North West,predominantly Bolton, and London have been identified as hotspots for the so called Indian variant of the Coronavirus.
Public Health England has reclassified VUI-21APR-02 (B.1.617.2, classified as a Variant Under Investigation (VUI) on 28 April) as a Variant of Concern (VOC), now known as VOC-21APR-02.
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.
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.
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. The cases are spread across the country,but with a predominance in Bolton and in London
Dr Susan Hopkins, COVID-19 Strategic Response Director at PHE, said:
The way to limit the spread of all variants is the same and although we are all enjoying slightly more freedom, the virus is still with us. Keep your distance, wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, cover your nose and mouth when inside and keep buildings well ventilated and meet people from other households outside. If you are told to get a test, if you have any symptoms at all or have been in contact with someone who has tested positive, please make sure you get tested too.
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.