NEWS DIGEST 17.04.2021: Indian double mutation COVID strain troubles the UK

Good morning readers. Today’s News Digest comes via Google News. A new ‘double mutation’ variant of coronavirus originating in India could spell trouble for the UK’s journey out of the third lockdown, after cases were confirmed in the latter, latest news reports suggest. British cases of the older South African variant have also doubled. The Indian variant appears to be quite immune to current vaccines and 77 Britons have already come down with this new strain, despite the UK recording its lowest level of infections in seven months. The Indian variant is officially known as B.167. Researcher Danny Altmann, of London’s Imperial College university, has suggested that visitors coming from India should be subject to an immediate two-week quarantine at hotels, to prevent the variant from becoming established in Britain – Live Coronavirus latest news: India’s variant could ‘scupper’ UK’s march to freedom, scientist warns (The Telegraph – News)

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Ironically, the UK prime minister Boris Johnson is planning an official trip to India, and has said he will still go ahead despite the latest developments. The PM is planning to visit the Indian capital of Delhi for trade talks with government officials there. Plans for the trip have been scaled back though, with all special engagements restricted to just one day. The UK government has so far resisted calls to add India to its ‘red list’ of nations from which direct travel is banned. A source at the official prime ministerial residence, 10 Downing Street, pooh-poohed claims that the decision not to add India to the list was to avoid jeopardising post-Brexit trade talks, as the UK desperately searches for new trade agreements after it technically severed trade links with Europe following its 2020 departure from the European Union – Boris Johnson’s long-awaited India trip to go ahead despite surge in Covid cases (Mirror)

Imperial College’s Danny Altmann has been among those who have urged the UK to include India on the hotel quarantine list as the new variant, which has been particularly active in the western state of Maharashtra, was described as being ‘terribly concerning’. Altmann said that the new variant could ‘scupper’ the lockdown roadmap to release the public from restrictions on travel and socialising – UK urged to ban travel to India over ‘terribly concerning’ variant as Johnson presses ahead with trip (Independent News)

India has struggled to contain its coronavirus outbreaks with 150,000 new cases detected a day, and many coronavirus sufferers being forced to turn to the black market for medication. Public Health England has designated the B.1.617 variant as a “variant under investigation” and said there was currently no evidence to suggest it caused more severe disease or that vaccines were less likely to work against it. Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said the variant first identified in India featured two “escape mutations” which “are causing people to be concerned” – Covid: Boris Johnson’s India visit to go ahead despite rise in cases (BBC News UK)

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