Indian Covid variant being monitored in Suffolk after one case confirmed
- Credit: Leon Neal/PA
Public health leaders in Suffolk say they are "closely monitoring" the Indian variant of Covid-19, after they confirmed one case of the strain has been found in the county.
One case of the B16172 variant — which was first identified in India and is believed to be linked to the country's second wave — has been found in Suffolk to date, public health leaders confirmed.
Work is now being done by the county's public health bodies to identify any further cases.
Stuart Keeble, director of public health for Suffolk, said: “This variant is of concern and something that is being monitored closely. There is no firm evidence yet to show it has any greater impact on the severity of the disease or evades the vaccine. The area of concern is around its speed of growth.
“Our advice to people is to keep doing what you have been doing – wear a mask, wash your hands, maintain distancing, get vaccinated as soon as it become available to you and good ventilation if you meet others indoors from next week.
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“The government is working in partnership with local authorities and the measures are in place to help control the spread of Covid-19 variants and rapidly break its chains of transmission.“
Mr Keeble said regular twice-weekly testing was also something people should do to help curb the spread of the virus.
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“Even if you have received both vaccinations, you can still pick up and transmit the virus,” he said.
“If you receive a positive result from a rapid test remember to book a confirmatory PCR test via 119 or .Gov website. This also enables us to identify potential variants."
Public Health England data has shown a rise in cases from 520 to 1,313 this week in the UK.
The Department of Health and Social Care said most cases of the Indian variant are in the North West of England, with some in London.
In Bolton, which has one of the highest case rates of the variant in the country, mobile testing units have been deployed and door-to-door PCR Covid testing has been offered to 22,000 residents.
Health Secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock said the situation was being monitored carefully and the Government “will not hesitate to take further action if necessary”.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said that Monday's easing of restrictions will still go-ahead despite concerns around the variant.
He said: "We think that the roadmap for Monday remains in place, because the vaccines are delivering, and vaccines are keeping people out of hospital and, of course, away from severe infection."
He added that the Government was "confident" this could continue but said officials would "continue to monitor" the situation.
What's the view of experts?
Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said the Indian variant “clearly has been out-competing” the Kent variant in a number of areas around the UK.
“Indeed it’s now in most regions of the UK, with the possible exception of Yorkshire and Humber in the North East, which seem to have very few cases so far,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
He said the variant seems to be a little bit more resistant to the coronavirus vaccines from early indications, explaining: "It is not as resistant as the South African variant, but a little bit more resistant than the Kent variant".
He said the cases are increasing in younger people who have had less access to vaccines so far.
For details on how to obtain test kits see here.