Some 55 cases of the coronavirus “double mutation” variant first detected in India have been discovered in the UK in the past week.
It takes the total number of B.1.617 infections to 132, according to the latest figures released by Public Health England.
Of these cases, 119 were found in England, five in Scotland and eight in Wales.
It comes before India will be added to the UK’s travel “red list” on Friday.
Experts are said to be worried about the variant as it carries two mutations in the spike protein that may make it more able to evade the body’s immune responses.
It is also thought the variant may be able to infect the body more easily.
Meanwhile, India detected a new ‘triple mutant’ variant of Covid-19 as it battles to contain one of the worst outbreaks of the coronavirus.
India on Thursday set a grim new record for the highest number of Covid cases in a single day with 314,835 new infections, piling further pressure on the country’s beleaguered health care system.
The coronavirus surge in the world’s second-most populous country also saw another 2,104 deaths in the past 24 hours. The country’s overall death toll now stands at 184,657.
The previous highest daily case count of 307,581 was reported in the US on January 8.
More and more sick people are being admitted into an already fragile health care system critically short of hospital beds and oxygen, with 15.9 million cases since the start of the pandemic.
The New Delhi High Court on Wednesday ordered the government to divert oxygen from industrial use to hospitals to save people’s lives.