The variant, VUI-202012/01, is thought to have originated in the south east of England but is quickly spreading across the country. The mutant strain is being blamed for a surge in infections, forcing the nation to impose strict lockdown measures either side of Christmas Day this year. Leading scientists who sequenced its genome detected samples taken at 45 places in England, six in Scotland and six in Wales.
The Covid-19 Genomics UK Consortium (COG-UK) monitoring group first identified the significance of the new strain and have now revealed where the variant has cropped up.
They said cases have been identified in Liverpool, Leicester, Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol.
Locations near the cities of Leeds, Oxford, Coventry and Cambridge also produced samples.
The Scottish cases were mainly clustered around Glasgow while Wales had cases in Swansea, Newport and near Cardiff.
But it is likely the new variant has already spread more widely than this, as not all COVID-19 patients have samples taken for genome sequencing.
Experts are currently analysing 3,000 samples suspected of being the new variant.
Public Health England had only previously announced 1,000 confirmed cases.
The full list of places have been listed below.
Jeffrey Barrett, lead statistical geneticist at COG-UK, said there was a time lag so the data was from the first week of December when England came out of the second national lockdown.
He said: “They’re relatively small numbers but I think it is important to be aware that it is certainly not the case that this is just completely geographically constrained to what is the current Tier 4 area.”
More to follow…