Some 49 cases of a new variant of Covid-19 have been identified in England and the strain is now under investigation, health chiefs said on Friday, with research underway to check for more infections linked to it.
Most infections of the VUI-21MAY-01 variant, which is of the AV.1 lineage, are located in the eastern Yorkshire and Humber region, Public Health England has said.
A cluster of cases of the variant, which has several mutations in its spike protein, have been identified over the past few weeks.
On Friday, the UK government officially declared the variant “under investigation,” meaning it is looking for cases elsewhere and monitoring the spread of infection.
This is a less serious classification than a “variant of concern” – a status the government has used for the strains first detected in India and the UK, among others.
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Dr Kevin Smith of Public Health England said officials were “keeping an eye” on the new variant, and urged the public not to “be alarmed” and to continue adhering to health measures such as wearing a mask.
So far, the variant does not appear to be more transmissible, cause more severe infection or be more resistant to vaccines than earlier strains of the virus.
It was first discovered by scientists at Yorkshire’s Sheffield University and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals. The researchers are now sequencing more positive tests from local hospitals to inform the health situation, according to ITV.
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