Although experts are still studying how it differs from the Covid strains already commonplace in Britain, it is thought to be noticeably more transmissible than B.1.1.7, the form of coronavirus which is mostly already circulating around the country.
The continuing spread of a new variant of coronavirus which emerged in India has tampered celebrations as most of the UK emerges another step out of lockdown on Monday.
Known to scientists as B.1.617.2, the Indian variant is responsible for clusters of cases in places including Bolton, which has seen a serious spike in infections and hospitalisations.
According to figures from Public Health England, cases of the Indian variant have more than doubled in just one week, from 520 to 1,313.
The number of people currently infected with B.1.617.2 will be higher still than this, as this data dates to the 5 May and not everyone infected will have yet been tested.
However, despite the Indian variant of Covid probably spreading faster than other strains, there is no evidence it is more dangerous or that vaccines are not effective against it.
Likewise, the key symptoms associated with an infection of B.1.617.2 are the same as ordinary Covid:
- A new, persistent cough
- A high temperature
- The loss of taste or smell
The spread of the Indian variant was not considered to be enough of a threat to postpone the next step out of lockdown on 17 May, but there is increasing speculation the final stage – set at the moment for 21 June – might have to be delayed.
Even though the vast majority of those vaccinated will be protected against the faster-spreading strain of coronavirus, if enough people refuse to take the jab when offered the more transmissible variant could still wreak havoc, some fear.