Facing a significant increase in the number of daily COVID-19 cases, the UK government announced on Tuesday that ” watch closely ” a new sub-variant of the coronavirus that is spreading in the country, without knowing yet if it is more contagious.
The mutation, named ” AY4.2 ”, is derived from the Delta variant, highly contagious, first detected in India and causing a surge in cases in the UK in late spring.
“We are following this new form very closely and will not hesitate to take action if necessary,” a Downing Street spokesman said Tuesday. However, “there is no reason to believe that it is spreading more easily,” he said.
The appearance of this new subvariant occurs at a time when the country, one of the worst hit in Europe with 138 thousand deaths from COVID-19, faces a growing number of positive cases.
For two weeks, new daily infections have fluctuated between 35,000 and 45,000, with an incidence rate of 410 cases per 100,000 inhabitants until October 12, much higher than in the rest of Europe.
Some scientists attribute this deterioration, which at the moment mainly affects adolescents and young adults, the low level of vaccination among minors, the reduction of immunity in the elderly who were vaccinated many months ago and the lifting of most restrictions in England in July, such as the use of face masks in closed places.
In the opinion of François Balloux, director of the Institute of Genetics at University College London, the new variant “It is not the cause of the recent increase in the number of cases in the UK.”
The scientist explained that, with its current low frequency, even “ 10% more transmissibility only could have caused a small number of additional cases. ”
The appearance of AY4.2 “is not a situation comparable to the appearance of the Alpha and Delta strains, which were much more transmissible (50% or more) than any of the strains that were circulating at that time,” he said.
The new variant AY4.2 is almost non-existent outside the UK, apart from three cases detected in the United States and a few in Denmark, which have since almost disappeared.
Their reaction to existing vaccines is being investigated.