New Covid variant identified in England and Scotland
The first cases of a new variant of Covid-19 have been detected in the UK.
The new strain originated in India and has been designated a Variant Under Investigation (VUI) by health officials.
The Indian government describes the strain as a “double mutant”, suggesting that it had formed as a hybrid of two other strains.
Researchers fear the new variant may be more infectious and harder for the immune system to target.
So far 77 people have tested positive for the new strain, 74 in England and three in Scotland.
Last week Health Minister Vaughan Gething confirmed Bangladesh, Kenya, Pakistan and the Philippines had been added to the “red list” of countries from which travellers are prohibited from entering Wales without undergoing a period of quarantine.
Direct flights to Wales are banned from red-list countries and travellers are not permitted to enter Wales unless they are processed through a designated port in England or Scotland and remain in managed quarantine there for 10 days before travelling onto Wales.
India has reported more than 150,000 Covid cases a day for the past three weeks but international travel has yet to be curtailed.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to travel to India later this month in an effort to secure a major trade deal.
The Kent variant remains the dominant strain in Wales, but 26 cases of the South African mutation have been identified, along with six cases of a variant linked to Nigeria and one case of the Brazilian strain.
A large cluster of the South African variant was identified in south London last week and health officials warned that easing of lockdown rules could be put “into reverse” if new variants continue to spread.
So far 524 people have tested positive for the South African variant in England. Research suggest the South African strain is not more deadly than the initial strain, but it is known to spread more quickly and the vaccines currently available are less effective in prevention infection.
Meanwhile, today’s figures from Public Health Wales confirm three further deaths due to coronavirus and 94 new cases of the virus.
The newly reported deaths were in the Aneurin Bevan, Cwm Taf Morgannwg and Powys health board areas.
Cardiff recorded new 25 cases, the highest in the country but Swansea continues to report the highest weekly case rate at 30.4 per 100,000 people. It also has the highest positive test percentage at 3.2% per 100,000 tests.
The national case rate has increased from 16.7 to 17.9 since Friday’s report and the the test rate is down from 1.9% to 1.8%.
Due to changes to the way PHW reports statistics on the pandemic, today’s update includes data reported for the 24-hour period up to 9am on Friday.
Data reported on Mondays from now on will be for a 48-hour period up to 9am on Sunday.
“It is likely that the figures reported on Mondays will be around double the usual 24 hours figure,” Dr Robin Howe, Incident Director for the Covid-19 outbreak response at Public Health Wales, said.
“We are doing this because case numbers are now low therefore any fluctuation day-to-day can give rise to potentially misleading interpretation and we want to be focusing more on the underlying trends.
“Our surveillance team will however retain the ability to ramp back up to seven-day reporting if necessary.