This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: UK Feed
The variant – also known as B.1.617 – was first noted internationally in October and first identified in the UK on February 22. It has 13 mutations including two in the virus’ spike protein known as E494Q and L452R.
Public Health England (PHE) said this morning three cases of the Indian variant were found in Leicester.
Express.co.uk understands local public health officials are not conducting surge testing or mass testing of communities as all cases are all linked to travel from the country.
It is understood the cases originated from passengers who travelled into the UK before India was officially added to the UK’s coronavirus travel red list.
The restrictions come in response to mounting concern about the number of coronavirus cases in India and the emergence there of a variant of the virus.
As of 4am last Friday, people returning from India must quarantine in a Government-approved hotel for 10 days, while anyone who is not a UK or Irish resident or a British citizen will be banned from entering the country if they have been in India in the previous 10 days.
Professor Ivan Browne, Leicester City Council’s Director of Public Health, said: “Public Health England notified us on Sunday that it had identified three cases of the variant known as VUI-21-APR in Leicester.
“PHE had already been in touch with the people concerned and some of their contacts.
“Since then we have been working closely with PHE to ensure that all close contacts of those affected are identified and advised to self-isolate for 10 days.
“Targeted testing is also taking place in a city school as a precautionary measure.”
PHE experts are currently unsure whether any of the mutations mean the variant can be transmitted more easily, is more deadly or can evade the effectiveness of vaccines or natural immunity.
The news on the variant has put pressure on the UK Government on whether to restart International Travel after May 17, with First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford warning the explosive surge in coronavirus cases should give “real pause for thought” on the matter.
Mr Drakeford warned that the improving public health situation in the UK could be put at risk by the “wild card” of an imported strain of the virus from another part of the globe.
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Wales has eight confirmed cases of the Indian variant of COVID-19 from people who have returned from India, with each being monitored by their area’s public health teams.
Mr Drakeford said that an expected third wave of the virus in the UK could be triggered by a newer strain from elsewhere.
He added: “Just remember that there is another sort of big wild card in all of this, and that is the importation of the virus from other parts of the world.
“We have cases of the Indian variant in Wales, as we’ve had cases of the South African variant.
“The UK Government has a very important decision to make about May 17 and the reopening of international travel.
“I really hope that what we’ve seen in India in the last week will give them real pause for thought and that we don’t run the risk of opening up international travel too quickly on too broad a front, and that results in the virus coming back into Wales.
“That could make a difference to all our calculations.”