The new variant has two significant mutations in the spike protein that help it evade the immune system and infect cells.
PHE has marked B.1.617 as a “Variant Under Investigation” as opposed to “Variant of Concern”.
“SARS-CoV-2 variants, if considered to have concerning epidemiological, immunological or pathogenic properties, are raised for formal investigation. At this point they are designated Variant Under Investigation (VUI) with a year, month, and number. Following a risk assessment with the relevant expert committee, they may be designated Variant of Concern (VOC)”, PHE explained.
Among the variants of concern are those first detected in Kent, South Africa, and Brazil. Both South Africa and Brazil are on the UK government's red list travel ban countries. Non-British travellers from these countries will be refused entry to the UK, while British citizens or residents will have to pay for 10-day hotel quarantine. India has not been placed on the red list.
Cases of the variant have also been detected in California. As of 14 April 2021, 11 COVID-19 variants had been recorded by PHE.
The total number of vaccinations administered in the UK is slightly over 40 million, according to the latest update from the NHS, with 32,444,439 having had the first dose and 8,513,864 having received both doses.
The #COVID19 Dashboard has been updated: https://t.co/XhspoyTG79— Public Health England (@PHE_uk) April 15, 2021
On Thurs 15 April, 2,672 new cases and 30 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were reported across the UK.
32,444,439 people have now received the first dose of a vaccine & 8,513,864 have received a 2nd dose. pic.twitter.com/td35GuDZWV