A new and deadly variant of the coronavirus has been detected in the UK with 77 cases identified by the public health body.

The Indian variant, also known as B1617, was first detected on Thursday with 73 cases in England and four in Scotland.

Public Health England (PHE) has designated the mutation a “Variant Under Investigation”, with experts concerned over its ability to evade immune responses.

“A new variant has been designated a Variant Under Investigation (VUI) by PHE. The variant, first detected in India, includes a number of mutations… PHE has identified 77 cases of this variant in the UK and all appropriate public health interventions will be undertaken, including enhanced contact tracing,” PHE said in a statement.

Researchers at PHE say that the variant contains two mutations that will help the virus evade the body’s immune responses and render antibodies ineffective. There are also worrying concerns that the variant may be more infectious than the first variants that emerged at the end of last year.

The first of the 77 Indian variant cases discovered in the UK were detected in specimens in late February this year according to COG-UK/ME, a database that collects and provides information on mutations and variants connected to the virus. It found that the number of specimens containing this variant has been rising each week.

The discovery of the new Indian variant follows rising number of infections of the South African mutation in the capital London. There have been 45 confirmed cases of the variant in three major boroughs of the capital and local councils have urged people in these areas to be cautious.

On Friday 2,596 people had a confirmed positive test of the virus adding this week’s total to 18,118. This represents an 8.5% decrease in comparison to the last seven days.

Thirty-four deaths were reported within 28 days of testing positive for the virus on Friday. Between April 10 and 16, there were 185 deaths within 28 days of testing. This shows a 17.4% decrease in comparison to the previous week.

Over 32 million people were administered their first dose of the vaccine by the end of April 15 with 8.9 million people now having received the second. Vaccines are currently administered in 2 doses 21 days apart.

The latest R range for the UK stands at 0.8-1.0, with the current growth rate at -4% to 0% per day. The R number is a mechanism used to rate the virus’s ability to spread, with R being the number of people that one infected person will pass the virus on to.

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