Home England government UK monitors ‘subvariant’ of Delta coronavirus strain, government says

UK monitors ‘subvariant’ of Delta coronavirus strain, government says


Members of Global Justice Now protest with coffins to mark the global death toll from COVID-19, in Parliament Square, London, October 12, 2021.
Image Credit: REUTERS

London: Britain said on Tuesday it was monitoring a Delta strain subvariant of COVID-19, which has been seen in an increasing number of cases.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said the government was monitoring variant AY.4.2 “closely” but said there was no evidence that it spread more easily.

“As you can imagine, we are monitoring it closely and will not hesitate to take action if necessary,” he told reporters.

Overall infection rates in Britain remain stubbornly high, despite high vaccination rates, and on Monday nearly 50,000 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded.

Some scientists have suggested that measures to mitigate close contact transmission, such as wearing a mask indoors, may be needed to prevent cases from getting even worse.

Coronavirus restrictions were lifted across the country in July after three nationwide shutdowns.

The increase has been attributed to the high number of infections among schoolchildren and prompted calls for a broader booster program to combat declining immunity.

Downing Street acknowledged the growing number of positive tests, hospital admissions and deaths, but pointed to fluctuations in all three rates in recent months.

François Balloux, professor of computer systems biology at University College London, said AY.4.2 exhibited two leading mutations found in other coronavirus variants and was first sequenced in April 2020.

The subvariant was “rare” outside of Britain and so far there have only been three cases detected in the United States, he added.

“Since AY.4.2 is still at a fairly low frequency, a 10% increase in its transmissibility could have caused only a small number of additional cases.

“As such, this has not been the cause of the recent increase in the number of cases in the UK.”

Bayroux, director of the UCL Genetics Institute, added: “This is not a situation comparable to the emergence of Alpha and Delta which were much more transmissible (50% or more) than any strain in circulation at the time.

“Here we are dealing with a potential small increase in transmissibility that would not have a comparable impact on the pandemic.”

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