The Indian variant is believed to be more contagious than previous forms of the deadly virus. It contains a mutation to the spike protein, which allows the virus to penetrate human cells. Scientists have identified three distinct strains of the variant, which was first detected in the UK back in October.
The version causing most concern is known as B.1.617.2, which now makes up the majority of all Indian variant cases in the UK.
It is estimated that more than 500 cases of B.1.617.2 have now been detected across the nation.
Just over a week ago there were only 202 official cases, showing the explosive potential for transmission of this virus strain.
In particular, it is spreading rapidly in London where it could easily become dominant by the end of May or early June, according to Dr Deepti Gurdasani, a clinical epidemiologist and senior lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, who spoke to The Guardian.
Although the virus strain appears to be much more contagious, experts believe that it is not resistant to current vaccines.
It does not have the E.484K mutation that could help the virus avoid detection by the the human immune system and may also impact the efficacy of existing vaccines.
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“This should prompt a complete overhaul of our travel policy for the summer.”
The Prime Minister’s roadmap out of lockdown envisages the return of non-essential foreign travel from May 17.
The Government is planning to introduce a traffic light system, which will determine the risk levels for foreign destinations, along with testing and quarantine requirements.