How are other UK nations managing India variant as cases rise in Scotland?

Concern is growing in Scotland over the variant of Covid-19 first identified in India.

Scotland now has 35 confirmed cases, with the recent rise in cases in Glasgow potentially indicating more – although genomic sequencing is yet to be completed.

Testing has been ramped up in Glasgow, with an urgent move to vaccinate all over-18s in affected areas to begin on Monday.

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But how are other UK nations affected by the India variant?

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According to the most recent data from Public Health England, there are 11 cases of B1617B in Wales, 12 in Northern Ireland and 1,255 in England.

These figures are released weekly, and it is likely that true case numbers are higher than this, as genomic sequencing to identify variants can take up to two weeks.

In England, the variant has been detected in Bolton, Greater Manchester, Blackburn in Lancashire, and Sefton in Merseyside, which have all seen rates rise rapidly.

Bolton has the highest rate of any local area in England, with 553 new cases in the seven days to May 9 – the equivalent of 192.3 per 100,000 people.

Mobile testing units have been deployed in Bolton and door-to-door PCR testing has been offered to 22,000 residents.

A vaccine bus has been set up to increase uptake among those who are eligible and a rapid response team of 100 nurses, public health advisers and environmental health officers has been sent in.

Some school children in the north west of England have been told to continue wearing face masks in schools in light of the variant – a measure that was set to be removed in England.

Surge testing has also been deployed in Sefton, as well as in parts of London.

Hounslow is the London borough with the highest rate at 48.2 per 100,000 people in the seven days to May 9, with 131 new cases.

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Cases of the variant in Wales are believed to be scattered around the country. Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said on Friday that any further easing of restrictions in Wales would be paused in light of concern over the variant.

In Northern Ireland, 12 cases have been identified, but health officials have not yet raised the alarm.

There are three versions of this variant, but it is the one known as B16172, which has been designated a “variant of concern”, that is the reason for increased measures to combat the spread of cases.

While more research is needed, it is thought this variant may be more transmissible than the “Kent” variant in circulation in Scotland.

However, there is no evidence so far to suggest that it causes people to become more ill or that it is resistant to any current vaccines.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said last week that more than 4,500 cases of the variant had been detected from 44 countries, in all six WHO regions. The UK had the largest number of cases outside of India.

India is grappling with an uncontrolled outbreak, which has overwhelmed the health service, and saw death counts of more than 4,000 per day last week.

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