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Covid news - live: New UK Covid variant under investigation as surge testing rolled out in two more areas

Chiara Giordano and Kate Ng
·1-min read
Coronavirus vaccines tweaked to deal with variants will be fast-tracked in the UK (Ben Birchall/PA)
Coronavirus vaccines tweaked to deal with variants will be fast-tracked in the UK (Ben Birchall/PA)

Scientists have identified 16 cases of a new coronavirus variant in the UK, which is now under investigation, Public Health England (PHE) has said.

The new variant, referred to as VUI-2021 02/04, was first identified on 15 February through genomic horizon scanning. All individuals who tested positive and their contact have been traced and advised to isolate, said PHE.

It comes as surge testing is to be rolled out in targeted areas in London and Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham. However, this additional testing is aimed at suppressing the spread of the South African variant of concern, not the new UK variant.

PHE said that as of Wednesday, a total of 29 cases of the South African variant have been detected in England where there were no travel links.