Coronavirus news – live: UK ‘should be concerned’ about India variant as vaccines approved for pregnant women

Chiara Giordano and Peter Stubley
Public Health England has detected 77 cases in the UK of a new ‘double mutant’ Covid-19 variant that first emerged in India (Kirsty O'Connor/PA)
Public Health England has detected 77 cases in the UK of a new ‘double mutant’ Covid-19 variant that first emerged in India (Kirsty O'Connor/PA)

The UK “should be very concerned” about a new Covid variant from India, an expert said after 77 cases were detected in the UK.

Described by the Indian government as a “double mutant”, the strain has been designated as a “variant under investigation” by officials at Public Health England.

“They are things that can most scupper our escape plan at the moment and give us a third wave,” said Danny Altmann, a professor of immunology at Imperial College London. “They are a worry.”

It came as a scientist advising the UK government said local restrictions may need to be reintroduced if surge testing fails to halt the spread of the South African Covid variant, which has now been identified in 600 cases.

Professor John Edmunds, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told ITV’s Peston show that if mass testing, such as that under way in Southwark and Barnet in London, “don’t work that well … then it’s possible we’ll have to impose some sort of local restrictions back in place, and nobody wants to do it”.

Meanwhile experts have recommended that pregnant women should be offered a Covid vaccine at the same time as other people their age, after research showed the jabs were safe.

Pregnant women are at a greater risk from severe Covid in later pregnancy and infected women are two to three times more likely to give birth to their baby prematurely.

However, the prevalence of coronavirus infections in England dropped sharply to its lowest level since September, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) says.