Herald on Sunday

Fears Covid variants are escaping vaccines in UK

- — Telegraph Group Ltd

New Covid variants appear to be escaping vaccines, as the latest figures show a doubling in cases of the South African mutation in the United Kingdom in the past month.

Meanwhile, 77 cases of a separate variant from India – which it is also feared may resist vaccines – have now been found in the UK.

Health officials said these were “geographic­ally well spread”, meaning surge testing would not be used in an attempt to contain the mutation.

Data from Public Health England reveals there are now 600 cases of the South African variant in the UK – up from about 300 a month ago.

Officials have embarked on the largest “surge testing” programme to date amid concern that a number of the infections in London involve people who had already been vaccinated.

Importatio­n of cases of the South African variant has long been of concern because of its ability to escape vaccines.

The outbreak in London is thought to have been triggered by an individual travelling from a country in Africa to the UK in February. Cases spread to members of their household and then to a care home in Lambeth, which is understood to have suffered at least 23 infections.

Six in 10 of the residents who became infected are understood to have received the AstraZenec­a jab,

and one of the 13 staff members with the variant had been given the Pfizer jab.

Scientists are also worried about the arrival of the new variant from India, which has a double mutation in the spike protein that may make it more able to evade the body’s immune responses. It currently has the label of “variant under investigat­ion” but could be designated a “variant of concern” if it is found to be more infectious or resistant to vaccines.

Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said it features two mutations – E484Q and L452R – which “are causing people to be concerned”.

“There’s laboratory evidence that both of these are escape mutations,” he explained.

“Basically, applying what we know about other human coronaviru­ses would suggest that this is going to be even less controlled by vaccine. But we don’t know that for certain at the moment.”

Covid rates in India are soaring, with more than 13.9 million confirmed cases and 172,000 deaths.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has scaled down a trip there because of its worsening virus situation. Johnson was due to spend four days there at the end of the month, but most of the meetings would now be fitted into a day.

 ?? Photo / AP ?? Revellers in London’s Soho after restrictio­ns relaxed this week.
Photo / AP Revellers in London’s Soho after restrictio­ns relaxed this week.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand