New contagious virus in India, spreading to other countries

A medic collects a woman's Covid-19 test sample in Bengaluru on 11 April 2021 | ANI

Though the "double mutant" has drawn attention, and some degree of panic, it is hard to say if it is the most common or abundant variant or even if it is responsible for the raging second Covid wave in India, said Anurag Agrawal, director of the CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology in New Delhi, and virologist Upasana Ray.

Scientists said the appearance of the "double mutant" strain was a "disaster" and branded the prime minister "crazy" for still considering a trade trip to India later this month.

PHE said that up to 14 April it had identified 77 cases of the India variant in Britain - 73 cases in England and four in Scotland.

Boris Johnson's failure to act on the new variant has been branded a "total shambles".

It is understood that the cases detected in England are dispersed across different parts of the country and many are linked to worldwide travel, but investigations are under way.

Officials have called it a "variant under investigation" rather than "of concern".

Dr Anthony Costello, a member of Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said: "This is a disaster".

That means it could be a concern based on what is known about those variants already. This is a total shambles.

"What we are doing is working with India and working with countries around the world to make sure that we increase the proportion of sequencing that is happening around the world but making sure that this is intelligent sequencing so that we can detect where these variants of interest and these variants of concern are", she added.

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The two mutations are found in the virus's spike protein, which helps the virus to bind itself to the human cell's receptors and gain entry into a host cell.

As a result of these discussions the Prime Minister has made the decision to reduce the length of the visit, due to take place at the end of this month, to a shorter programme in New Delhi, UK PM's spokesperson said.

Authorities this week ramped up efforts to stop the spread of a cluster of the South African variant across London.

"When were these identified?"

Cases of B.1.617 variant are responsible for second wave in India. It is also thought it may be able to infect the body more easily.

"It might be even less controlled by vaccines than the Brazilian and South African variants". "But we don't know that for certain at the moment".

In the United Kingdom, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) was asked whether India should be placed on the "red list" of hotel quarantine countries following the discovery of a new variant there.

In India, Covid-19 rates are soaring, with more than 13.9 million confirmed cases and 172,000 deaths.

But despite the warnings, Downing Street has insisted Boris Johnson's trip to India later this month - his first major global visit since securing a Brexit trade deal with Brussels - will go ahead.

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