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UK monitoring subvariate of coronavirus delta strain

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Despite high vaccination rates, the overall infection rate in the UK is very high (File)

London:

Britain said on Tuesday it was monitoring a subvariant of the delta strain of coronavirus, which has been seen to increase the number of cases.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the government was “closely tracking” the AY.4.2 version, but said there was no evidence it spreads more easily.

“As you would expect, we are monitoring this closely and will not hesitate to take action if necessary,” he told reporters.

Despite the high vaccination rate, the overall infection rate in the UK remains very high, and nearly 50,000 new cases of Covid-19 were reported on Monday.

Some scientists have suggested that measures to reduce close-contact transmission, such as wearing masks indoors, may be necessary to prevent cases from rising further.

Coronavirus restrictions were lifted across the country in July after three national lockdowns.

The increase has been attributed to higher numbers of infections among school children, and has led to a more extensive booster jab program to combat weakened immunity.

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

François Balloux, Professor of Computational Systems Biology at University College London, said AY.4.2 has two spike mutations found in other coronavirus variants and was first sequenced in April 2020.

He said the subvariant was “rare” outside the UK and that only three cases have been detected in the United States so far.

“As AY.4.2 is still at a fairly low frequency, a 10 per cent increase in its transmission efficiency could only lead to a few additional cases.

“As such it is not driving the recent increase in the number of cases in the UK.”

Beyroux, director of the UCL Genetics Institute, said: “This is not a situation comparable to the emergence of alpha and delta which were far more permeable (50 percent or more) than any strain in circulation at the time.

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

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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