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English health officials say 16 cases of new COVID variant discovered

·1-min read
Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in London

LONDON (Reuters) - British health officials said on Thursday they had identified 16 cases of a new variant of the COVID-19 virus in England which might share similarities to other strains first identified in Brazil and South Africa.

Public Health England (PHE) said cases of the variant, known as B.1.1.318, were first identified on Feb. 15 and it was understood to have originated in the United Kingdom.

"All individuals who tested positive and their contacts have been traced and advised to isolate," PHE said in a statement.

It said the strain had been declared a Variant Under Investigation (VUI) and contained the E484K mutation which is a feature of the South African and Brazilian variants.

However, it does not feature the N501Y mutation which appears in variants of concern (VOC), the PHE said.

Britain is currently tracking eight variants, four VUIs and four VOCs, the health body added.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)