Statistics shared by the National Institute of Virology, Pune showed that of the 361 COVID-19 samples taken in Maharashtra from January to March and genome sequenced, 61% or 220 had the double mutation E484Q and L452R, according to the Indian Express. On Saturday, more than 234,000 new infections were detected in the country nationwide.
A total of 77 cases of the variant, known as B.1.617, have been recorded in the United Kingdom up to April 14, according to Public Health England (PHE). E484Q and L452R are separately found in other coronavirus variants, but they were found together for the first time in India. Contacts not being tested. "We have learnt nothing after a year".
Professor Christina Pagel, professor of operational research at University College London, had previously branded the the prime minister's planned trade trip to India "crazy".
Some experts are concerned that the new strain could be effective at evading human immune response.
"What we are doing is working with India and working with countries around the world to make sure that we increase the proportion of sequencing that is happening around the world but making sure that this is intelligent sequencing so that we can detect where these variants of interest and these variants of concern are", she added.
"And, as we open more and more, importing a strain becomes a lot more unsafe because it can spread a lot quicker before you notice it".
A No 10 spokesman told reporters: "Lateral flow tests have been rigorously evaluated and we believe that they are both accurate and incredibly useful in terms of being able to spot asymptomatic cases of the virus. And why isn't the govt acting?"
But Prof Altmann said he suspected the Indian mutation would be escalated to a variant of concern as it holds properties that allow it to evade the coronavirus vaccines now on offer, like the South African variant, and was more transmissible, in a similar fashion to the Californian version of Covid.
PHE officials knew that variant was spreading in Britain in December but didn't start testing communities to weed it out until February. The variant contains two mutations to its spike protein that could also make it easier to spread.
For the South Africa variant, it was just 5 per cent.
Johnson's India visit shortened It also led to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson deciding to shorten the length of his India visit later this month, with the events now expected to be limited to a day-long packed schedule on April 26.
India has seen soaring Covid-19 rates, with more than 13.9 million confirmed cases and 172,000 deaths recorded.
Worrying stories have emerged about unrelated patients being forced to share beds and bodies lying outside wards at one of India's largest COVID-only facilities as the country struggles to cope with the surge in cases.