Covid variant identified in India could ‘catch out’ the vulnerable warns expert

Dozens of cases of the variant have been identified in the UK.
Covid variant identified in India could ‘catch out’ the vulnerable warns expert

An expert has said variants of the virus which causes Covid-19 ‘do pose a threat’ and vulnerable people could be ‘caught out’. Picture: Brian Lawless/PA

The variant of coronavirus first identified in India is likely to become a “variant of concern” which could potentially lead to the country being put on the UK’s travel “red list”, an immunology expert has said.

Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, said variants of the virus which causes Covid-19 “do pose a threat” and vulnerable people could be “caught out”.

Dozens of cases of the variant have been identified in the UK.

The variant, also known as B.1.617, is currently designated as a “variant under investigation” (VUI) rather than a “variant of concern” (VOC), such as those first identified in Kent, Manaus (Brazil) or South Africa.

Prof Altmann said some people in the population are still vulnerable and can “still be caught out” by variants.

He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “I am concerned about all the variants. Don’t get me wrong, I think our road map is going well and at the moment, in this country, we are doing rather well, enjoying unlocking.

“But out there, there is the Indian variant, the South African, Brazilian etc, and they do pose a threat.”

He added: “At the moment, we are still vulnerable, and some people in our population are still vulnerable – what I mean by that is the Indian variant, for example, certainly has a mutation like the ones that evade the best neutralising antibodies.

“What that means is, if you have a population where at least half of us have had zero or one dose of vaccine, some won’t have made a very good response to the vaccine, because perhaps they are very old or obese or unwell, we still have a very large vulnerable population who can still be caught out by variants like this.

(PA Graphics)

“At the moment, this particular variant is called a variant under investigation, not a variant of concern because it hasn’t been escalated to that level yet.

“My assumption from everything I’ve seen is that it will become a variant of concern.

“When it becomes a variant of concern, I’d be quite surprised if India wasn’t on the red list.”

According to the latest update from Public Health England (PHE), 73 cases of the B.1.617 variant, which was first discovered in India, have been found in England, as well as four cases in Scotland.

There are four so-called “variants of concern” and seven “variants under investigation” which have been identified in the UK.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to travel to India in the last week of April in a trip that has already been cut short as infections in the country continue to climb.

But the British Government has faced calls to move India to the travel “red list”, which would mean only UK nationals could return from the country and those doing so must pay to quarantine in an approved hotel for 10 days.

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