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COVID-19: UK detects 77 cases of coronavirus variant first detected in India

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Soho, London, on the day some of England's coronavirus lockdown restrictions were eased by the British government, Monday, April 12, 2021.
Soho, London, on the day some of England's coronavirus lockdown restrictions were eased by the British government, Monday, April 12, 2021.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali
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British authorities have detected 77 cases of the COVID-19 variant first detected in India and thought to be behind a recent surge in infections in the Southeast Asian country.

Public Health England (PHE) released its latest weekly update on the variants detected in the UK on Thursday. It included for Indian variant for the first time and designated it a Variant Under Investigation (VUI).

"The variant, first detected in India, includes a number of mutations including E484Q, L452R, and P681R," it said.

"PHE and international partners continue to monitor the situation closely," it added.

PHE did not state whether these case were linked to international travel. India is currently not on the UK's red list of countries from which entry is banned.

The Indian variant is known as B.1.617 and is worrying health authorities worldwide because of a double mutation that makes it more likely to be vaccine-resistant, although this has not been confirmed yet.

The L452R mutation is of particular concern, having been identified in several variants and believed to to boost transmission.

Cases have also been detected in Australia, Canada, Germany, Singapore, and the French West Indies.

Last month, it accounted for nearly 20 per cent of all COVID-19 cases in the Indian state of Maharashtra, where it was first detected. India is currently battling a surge in infections with more than 200,000 cases reported nationwide on Thursday.

India has the fourth-highest COVID-19 death toll in the world, with more than 174,300 fatalities deplored since the beginning of the pandemic. It also recorded more than 14.2 million confirmed infections, second only to the US.

Overall, British variants remain dominant in the UK with more than 16,000 cases of the variant first identified in Kent in December detected over the previous week.

Fifty-six cases of the South African variant were also confirmed last week.

The UK entered a third national lockdown at the beginning of the year to curb the spread of the British variant and only started easing restrictions earlier this month. People in England can now meet outside in groups of six. Outdoor dining has been reopened as have other non-essential businesses including hairdressers, beauty salons and gyms.