Over recent months, the UK has been going through a mass vaccination drive to protect the nation against Covid. While the vaccination rollout has been going well, there are now concerns that a new variant of the virus from India could put people at increased risk.
According to reports, the new variant first discovered in India is being investigated by health officials after more than 70 cases were found across the UK. According to officials from Public Health England (PHE), some cases were not linked to travel in any way. Researchers are currently trying to find the origins of the variant.
In addition, health officials are concerned over the ability of the variant to spread more quickly and resist the vaccines that have been administered to tens of millions of people across the country already. However, Dr Susan Hopkins from PHE has said that it is too soon to say whether this is a ‘variant of concern.’
Not enough data to reach conclusions
Dr Hopkins said that, at present, there is not enough data to reach any conclusions about transmission and potential vaccine resistance of the variant.
Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, she said, "We have seen a couple of cases [of the Indian variant] that haven't arisen from travel but we're still trying to undergo the investigations to look in great detail at where they might have acquired it from. To escalate it up the ranking, we need to know that it is increased transmissibility, increased severity or vaccine evading, and we just don't have that yet."
Urgent work needed to gather data
There have been 73 cases of the Indian variant identified in England, with a further four in Scotland. Health officials said that it is vital that work is carried out quickly to determine both the origins of cases not related to travel and the transmissibility of the variant.
Some have expressed concern that data so far points to two variants of the Indian strain of Covid, which could make it more resistant to vaccines and more transmissible. However, experts have stressed that this is all speculation at present until further research has been completed.
The vaccine drive across the UK has been going well, with the government hitting targets and tens of millions of people having received their first dose. However, a variant that resists the vaccines could post huge issues, which has sparked concern amongst experts.