'Indian' variant re-named 'April 02', amid news it will 'almost certainly' become dominant strain in Scotland

The Covid-19 variant first identified in India will “almost certainly” become the dominant strain in Scotland, National Clinical Director Jason Leitch has said.

It comes as the variant, which is called B.1.617.2, was re-labelled the “April 02” variant by the Scottish Government.

This is taken from its official name in the UK, VOC-21APR-02. This is because it was the second variant identified in April, one of three versions of the B.1.617 lineage which was initially discovered in India.

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The name change is intended to prevent stigma in associating the variant with people from India.

A Covid-19 test centre sign at the entrance to the Glasgow Central Mosque in Glasgow.  Picture: PA MediaA Covid-19 test centre sign at the entrance to the Glasgow Central Mosque in Glasgow.  Picture: PA Media
A Covid-19 test centre sign at the entrance to the Glasgow Central Mosque in Glasgow. Picture: PA Media

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told a Covid-19 briefing on Friday that the rapid spread of the variant is a reason to remain cautious about the easing of restrictions.

"From now on, I will refer to that variant as the April 02 variant,” she said.

"In recent weeks, this variant has become quite established in many parts of the UK, including in Scotland, and we have reason to believe it might be even more transmissible than the Kent variant.”

In reference to the name change, health secretary Humza Yousaf said: "I think it’s so, so important for us not to allow this virus to divide us as communities and people.”

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There are 136 cases of this variant confirmed in Scotland, but this number is likely to be higher in reality.

Professor Jason Leitch told the Covid-19 media briefing on Friday that it is likely to become the dominant variant in Scotland.

"There are 16,000 versions of this virus in circulation around the world, he said.

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"The virologists describe virus “fitness” – every so often, one becomes fitter than the others and wins.

"Fitness does not imply worse disease or vaccine escape, they’re different things. But the one that wins the race is the fittest, that might be because it attached to your cells better, it might be because it’s more transmissible.

"This one appears to be fitter, and therefore it is winning the race in the north of England, and it's increasingly winning the race in some of our communities.

"So we think it will almost certainly become the dominant variant. That's not necessarily something to worry us.”

Prof Leitch said more research needs to be done on whether the new variant causes worse disease, and how it responds to vaccines.

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