British health officials said on Friday they were formally investigating a subvariant of the Delta strain of the coronavirus, after it was seen in a growing number of cases.
The United Kingdom Health Security Agency (UKHSA), a public health protection body, said that AY.4.2, which was observed last week in six percent of cases, had been “designated as a low variant. research “but not yet as a” variant of concern. ” .
“The designation was made on the basis that this sublineage has become increasingly common in the UK in recent months, and there is some initial evidence that it may have a higher growth rate in the UK compared to Delta. “the agency said.
“More evidence is needed to know if this is due to changes in the behavior of the virus or epidemiological conditions,” he added.
The UKHA said the Delta variant was “overwhelmingly dominant” in Britain, accounting for 99.8 percent of all cases.
But as of October 20, there have been 15,120 cases of the AY.4.2 subvariant, which was first detected in July, when coronavirus restrictions were lifted across the country.
“While the evidence is still emerging, so far it does not appear that this variant causes more serious disease or makes currently implemented vaccines less effective,” the UKHA added.
Britain is currently battling the world’s second-highest infection rate, behind the United States, with more than 50,000 cases registered on Thursday, the highest since July.
On Friday, nearly 50,000 new cases and 180 deaths were added within 28 days of a positive test, bringing the total number of victims since the start of the outbreak to 139,326.
High levels of infection among school-age children are said to be responsible for the rising rates and have prompted calls for the reintroduction of some contingency measures.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said this week that cases could reach 100,000 per day, as a new publicity blitz was launched to encourage the adoption of booster vaccines and flu jabs.
Concern has been expressed about declining immunity levels, given that Britain started its vaccination campaign in December last year, earlier than many other countries.
But the government is resisting calls for masks to be worn in crowded indoor spaces, even as health officials said it could help reduce close contact transmission and ease the burden on hospitals during the coming winter months.
Ministers say vaccination rates have helped cut the link between hospital admissions for more severe Covid cases and deaths.