Covid panic: First cases of new Nepal variant found in UK amid fears of new infection wave

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The “Nepal” variant was detected in “approximately half” of 43 full genome sequences conducted on recent positive cases, according to Public Health England (PHE). The true figure, however, is likely to be much higher, as only very few positive samples are subject to such detailed analysis. PHE confirmed that it was investigating a new spike mutation, known as K417N, to the existing Indian (Delta) variant.

Dr Mike Gent, Covid incident director at PHE, told The Telegraph: “PHE continuously assesses SARS-COV-2 variants and we are aware of reports linking Nepal to Delta (VOC-21APR-02) with the additional mutation K417N.

“This variant is present in multiple countries including a small number of cases in the UK, detected through rapid testing and whole genome sequencing.

“We are investigating K417N to better understand its significance.”

It is currently unknown whether the new spike mutation will allow the deadly virus to evade vaccines.

However, the mutation is the same as that found in the South African variant (Beta).

Evidence suggests that the Beta strain is partially resistant to vaccines and to immunity gained from previous Covid infection.

The “Nepal” variant’s emergence forced the Government to reconsider its travel advice for Portugal, according to the transport secretary.

Grant Shapps said: “There’s a sort of Nepal mutation of the Indian variant which has been detected.

“We just don’t know the potential for that to be a vaccine-defeating mutation and simply don’t want to take the risk as we come up to June 21 and the review of the fourth stage of the unlock.”


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The “Nepal” strain has been detected in several countries around the world, including Portugal, the USA and India.

It comes as new data suggests that the Delta variant is more likely to lead to hospitalisations than the Kent (Alpha) strain.

An analysis of 38,805 sequenced cases in England revealed that the Delta variant was associated with a 2.61 times higher risk of hospitalisation within 14 days of specimen date than the Alpha variant.

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