Public Health England (PHE) has identified 38 cases of COVID-19 which genomic sequencing has shown to feature a specific set of mutations which are currently being referred to as lineage B.1.525. The set of mutations includes the E484K spike protein mutation, which is present on a number of other variants of concern and variants under investigation.
This variant has been designated a Variant Under Investigation (VUI) and will be referred to as VUI202102/03.
The variant has been detected in other countries, including Nigeria, Denmark and Canada.
Cases are geographically dispersed across England. Enhanced contact tracing and genomic sequencing is underway to monitor the situation as it develops.
Professor Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director at PHE, said:
PHE is monitoring data about emerging variants very closely and where necessary public health interventions are being undertaken, such as extra testing and enhanced contact tracing.
There is currently no evidence that this set of mutations causes more severe illness or increased transmissibility.
The best way to stop the spread of the virus is to follow the public health advice: wash your hands, wear a face covering and keep your distance from others. While in lockdown, it is important that people stay at home, where possible.