It has been reported that two new coronavirus variants have been identified in England that have links to the Covid-19 variant first found in India.
Public Health England (PHE) said the two variants share the same lineage – a unique fingerprint of genetic mutations – like the Indian variant known as B.1.617.
In view of their finding, the two variants are referred to as “Investigated Variants” (VUI) – the same as B.1.617 – rather than “Concerning Variants” (VOC) as first identified in Kent, Manaus (Brazil) and South Africa.
PHE said it identified 202 cases of one of the variants and five cases of the other that are “geographically dispersed in England”.
There is no evidence that these variants cause more serious illness or make current vaccines less effective.
PHE said it has been monitoring the variants since early April and stepping up laboratory tests “to better understand the effects of the mutations on the behavior of the virus”.
According to the latest update from PHE, 172 cases of variant B.1.617 were found in England, including 13 in Scotland and eight in Wales.
There are a total of 226,635 cases of the Kent variant known as B.1.1.7 in the UK as PHE figures show.
In the UK, four variants of concerns and nine variants were examined.
Speaking at the Downing Street press conference on Wednesday (April 28), Health Secretary Matt Hancock said concerns about the impact of new variants on the UK vaccination program were behind political decisions about strict border controls.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England, said it was difficult to assess how new coronavirus variants would affect the introduction of vaccines in the UK, but hoped the vaccinations would continue to protect against serious diseases.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the government continues to work “closely” with its Indian counterparts to “determine what further help they may need” as a devastating surge in new infections continues to pierce the country.