Another Covid variant has been identified in UK, PHE confirms

23 July 2021, 15:19

A new Covid variant has been detected.
A new Covid variant has been detected. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Another Covid variant has been identified in the UK, Public Health England (PHE) has confirmed.

So far, 16 cases of the variant - B.1.621 - have been confirmed across the country, with the majority being in connection with overseas travel.

It was designated a variant under investigation (VUI) on 21 July, due to the rise in cases, PHE said.

The move was made due to the strain's genetic profile as well as its apparent international expansion.

However, there is currently no evidence of community transmission in the UK. There is no evidence yet that B.1.621 causes more of a severe reaction than other variants either, or that it renders the vaccines less effective.

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PHE have said they will continue to investigate the variant, carrying out laboratory testing to understand its impact.

"All appropriate public health interventions will be undertaken, including additional contact tracing and targeted testing," they added in a statement.

"Where cases have been identified, additional follow-up of cases, testing of contacts and if required targeted case finding will be deployed to limit its spread."

B.1.621 was first identified in Colombia in January, data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) has shown.

Updated figures from PHE also confirmed that the number of Delta variant cases in the UK had risen by 33,716 in a week, reaching a total of 286,765.

The Delta variant currently accounts for approximately 99 per cent of cases across the UK.

It comes as England entered step four of its roadmap out of lockdown this week, meaning legal restrictions such as social distancing are no longer required.