New Covid-19 variant identified in the UK

A new Covid-10 variant, B.1.621, was designated a variant under investigation (VUI) on July 21.

The new designation was made on the basis of early analysis of its genetic profile as well as its apparent international expansion and subsequent importation to the UK.

Public Health England  (PHE) said sixteen confirmed cases of B.1.621 have been identified across the country to date, and the majority have been linked to overseas travel. There is currently no evidence of community transmission in the UK.

There is currently no evidence that this variant causes more severe disease or renders the vaccines currently deployed any less effective. PHE is carrying out laboratory testing to better understand the impact of mutations on the behaviour of the virus.

PHE said all appropriate public health interventions will be undertaken, including additional contact tracing and targeted testing. 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.

Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said: ‘This most recent hospitalisation data shows once again just how crucial vaccination is in protecting us from severe illness and death.

‘Two doses of vaccine are far more effective against Covid-19 than a single dose, so please make sure that you come forward to get your second dose as soon as you are invited.

‘As we emerge from restrictions and vaccine coverage continues to rise, it is important to remember that while the protection provided by vaccination is excellent, it is not total.

‘It is still as important as ever that we continue to exercise caution.

‘Remember that meeting outside is safer than inside, get two doses of the vaccine as soon as you can, isolate if you are told to by NHS Test and Trace and if you show symptoms stay home and get a PCR test. Covid-19 has not gone away and we must all continue to play our part.’

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Public Health England (PHE) releases weekly updates on the number of confirmed new cases of variants of concern and variants under investigation identified in the UK.

PHE’s weekly COVID-19 variant cases data shows that numbers of confirmed cases of the Delta (VOC-21APR-02) variant in the UK have risen by 33,716 since last week to a total of 286,765. Of these, 45 are the Delta AY.1 sub lineage. The Delta variant currently accounts for approximately 99% of cases across the UK.

PHE has also published the latest edition of the variant technical briefing. This includes updated hospitalisation data showing that between 21 June and 19 July, 1,788 people were admitted to hospital after testing positive for the delta variant.

Of these, 970 (54.3%) were unvaccinated, while 530 (29.6%) had received both doses of the vaccine. In total, 3,692 people have been hospitalised with the Delta variant, of whom 2,152 (58.3%) were unvaccinated and 843 (22.8%) were fully vaccinated.

PHE has also published updated risk assessments for the Delta and Beta variants. The Delta risk assessment has been updated to reflect early signs of increased risk of reinfection with Delta compared to Alpha. Further investigations are being undertaken.

Photo Credit – Fusion Medical Animation


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