UK scientists must urgently learn as much as possible about the Indian Covid-19 variant, a leading epidemiologist has warned.
Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M), said as much information about the new variant must be gathered “as quickly as possible”.
He said: “What’s concerning about the Indian variant is there appear to be two mutations which… may make the vaccines less effective, and may make the virus more transmissible.”
According to the latest update, 77 confirmed cases of the B.1.617 variant, which was first discovered in India, have been detected in the UK, including four in Scotland and 73 in England.
However, UK environment secretary George Eustice said there is no evidence that the Indian variant of coronavirus is able to “get around” the vaccine.
He said: “The last I think I saw… there were around 70 cases. But I think I’ve seen lots of different numbers on different variants – you’ll appreciate, there is quite a few – so it is a fairly small number at the moment. But it is something that we are watching.
“I’m told that there is no evidence at the moment that this particular variant is able to get around the vaccine, for instance, or indeed that it is necessarily more contagious than the others,” he told Sky News On Sunday.
Dr Hopkins, chief medical adviser for NHS Test and Trace added: “We have seen a couple of cases [of the Indian variant] that haven’t arisen from travel but we’re still trying to undergo the investigations to look in great detail at where they might have acquired it from.
“To escalate it up the ranking we need to know that it is increased transmissibility, increased severity or vaccine evading, and we just don’t have that yet.”