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Indian Covid variant: Is it more infectious?

The ‘Indian’ Covid variant has cast doubts on the easing of lockdown by June 21 (Picture: Getty)

After seeming to turn the corner on the battle against Covid-19, with cases plummeting, whole areas being Covid free, and a hugely successful vaccination campaign, there could now be cause for concern.

The variant of coronavirus that emerged in India – B.1.617.2 – has started spreading around the world, and it is believed around 122 people brought the variant to Britain from New Dehli and Mumbai between late March and the end of April, according to PHE data.

Debate rages as to whether the relaxing of lockdown rules by June 21 will be halted by this variant, and this is in part due to its seemingly more infectious – or transmissible – nature.

Is the Indian Covid strain more infectious and will vaccines work against it?

How much more infectious is the Indian Covid variant?

It’s not currently clear just how much more infectious this new strain is.

However, based on the data available, the Scientific Advisory Group for emergencies (SAGE) suggested the new variant could be up to 50% more infectious than the Kent strain.

A public health digital board warns the public of a Covid-19 variant of concern

The new variant has been found across the UK, with the Government taking action and expediting the vaccine programmes or extending local lockdowns (Picture: AFP)

It is ‘highly likely that this variant is more transmissible than B.1.1.7 (high confidence), and it is a realistic possibility that it is as much as 50% more transmissible‘, minutes of a meeting between the Government’s scientific advisers on Thursday read.

Previously, the Kent strain was thought to be more transmissible than original variants and its emergence sparked a second wave across the UK, so many are worried about the impact of another more infectious variant.

Will Covid vaccines work against the Indian Covid variant?

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, has suggested that there is some hope that the current vaccines are successful against the Indian variant.

Appearing on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Matt Hancock confirmed that over 1,300 cases of the variant had been detected in the UK, but said early research from Oxford University had given the Government a ‘degree of confidence’ that vaccines will protect against the mutation.

The Health Secretary said: ‘There’s new very early data out from Oxford University, and I would stress that this is from the labs, it’s not clinical data, and it’s very early.

‘But it does give us a degree of confidence that the vaccines work against this Indian variant, but it is clearly more transmissible and has been spreading fast in the groups where there’s a cluster.

‘That means that we can stay on course with our strategy of using the vaccine to deal with the pandemic and opening up carefully and cautiously but we do need to be really very vigilant to the spread of the disease. We have a high degree of confidence that the vaccine will overcome.’

Areas of the UK that have reported higher cases of the Indian strain are expediting the vaccination programme to combat it.

All over 18s in Blackburn are being offered the Covid-19 vaccine to combat rising cases of the variant, while Glasgow and Moray will remain in localised lockdown as the rest of Scotland moves forward in its plans to lift lockdown restrictions.


MORE : Easing lockdown is ‘safe thing to do’ despite doctors’ warnings, minister insists

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