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Published on Friday, March 12, 2021

New Covid variant discovered in UK

Public Health England says a brand new Covid variant has been found in the UK, after two people were identified with it after recently arriving from Antigua.

The health authority said it shares some similarities with other strains but has not categorised it as 'concerning' for now.

The variant, known as VUI-202103/01 (lineage B.1.324.1) was discovered in southeast England in two people who had recently been to Antigua.

"The variant contains the spike mutations E484K and N501Y, both usually associated with Variants of Concern (VOC), however it does not feature specific deletions that would lead to a designation as a VOC," Public Health England said in a statement.

So far, variants classed as Covid-19 VOCs include the strain first found in Kent, and the South Africa and Brazil variants.

PHE said there have been 10 cases of the Brazil variant found in England, and all had links to travel to Brazil.

Meanwhile, the B.1.1.7 first found in the UK, is apparently more deadly than first thought.

A study published in the British Medical Journal gives the variant a higher mortality rate by 32% to 104%, compared to previous Covid strains.

"In the community, death from Covid-19 is still a rare event, but the B.1.1.7 variant raises the risk. Coupled with its ability to spread rapidly this makes B.1.1.7 a threat that should be taken seriously," said Robert Challen, lead author of the study from the University of Exeter.

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