New cases of Indian variant in Sheffield as health chief admits strain is ‘cause for concern’

Sheffield’s health chief has warned the Indian variant was definitely a cause for concern as up to 10 cases were detected last week.

Wednesday, 26th May 2021, 11:05 am

Public Health England identified 10 positive cases of the S-gene in Sheffield between May 8-14.

Greg Fell said: “The B1.617.2 , the one that originated in India is definitely a cause for concern, becoming more dominant and likely to become dominant. In the UK but difficult to predict when.”

He said the variant hasn't yet become dominant in Sheffield, but it was probably only a matter of time.

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A man walks past a Covid-19 testing site (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

“It’s probably a bit easier to spread and a bit more transmissible, almost certainly not more pathogenic and vaccine efficacy is looking okay,” he said.

“The same basic Public Health messages apply. We know how to control the virus. The most important thing is, when you get offered vaccination it's really important that you take that up.

“The Secretary of State for Health announced that the majority of people have been hospitalized because of the variant, hadn't had the vaccine, even though they were eligible, underscoring that it is really important to be vaccinated and the best thing to do to protect you and others.

“If we want to to bring the pandemic to an end and keep Sheffield open, we need everyone to have the vaccine and if you're in one of the at-risk groups and haven't yet been vaccinated , please call your GP practice or call 119 to book one.”

Greg Fell Director of public Health in Sheffield

Mr Fell said the so-called 'Yorkshire variant' The AV1, which was announced as a variant of Interest by Public Health England last Friday, was “not terribly concerning from a public health perspective”.

"It is certainly not more concerning than the current dominant variant, which is the B117, the Kent variant,” he said.

“It doesn't appear to be much more dominant or more harmful than the existing variants of viruses that are circulating.”

Public Health England has been tracking the spread of the B.1.617.2 mutation – which originated in India – by testing positive Covid-19 cases across the country for an "S-gene".

The gene is not present in the dominant Kent variant, which was responsible for a surge in cases over the winter, but is present in other variants of concern, including those from India.

Scientists have determined that the vast majority of the S-gene specimens identified across England in May are the Indian variant.

PHE identified 10 positive cases of the S-gene in Sheffield between May 8-14.

The health body had previously reported that six cases were detected in the area between May 2-8, but warned that it has counted any tests conducted on May 8 twice.

The data shows 6,729 S-gene positive cases were recorded in England between the start of March and May 11 – up from 4,363 by May 5.

Of these, 239 (4%) were in Yorkshire and The Humber – the third smallest proportion of England's nine regions, and well behind the North West, with almost 3,000.

A separate PHE study found both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines were highly effective against the Indian strain after a second dose but were only 33% effective three weeks after the first dose.