Health bosses reassure north London over 'Indian variant' Covid cases

Camden, Haringey and Barnet councils

Council public health bosses in Camden, Haringey and Barnet have reassured people about the prevalence of the so-called 'Indian variant' of Covid-19 - Credit: Archant/David Howard

North London has seen cases of the so-called Indian Covid-19 variant - but Camden, Haringey, or Barnet are not currently areas of particular concern. 

Barnet's public health bosses said this week that "more than 20" cases of the new variant - coded as B.1.617 - had been recorded, while Haringey's reps said "more than 5" and in Camden "a small number" of cases had been confirmed. 

Data from the Wellcome Sanger Institute - which has been mapping the prevalence of the differing forms of Covid-19 - shows that up to May 15 there had been 13 cases in Barnet, three in Haringey and two in Barnet.

The B.1.617 variant has been designated as one of "concern", and the government has launched surge testing programmes in eight local authorities around the country. The only London borough to be singled out at this stage is Hounslow. The eight areas are all now subject to advice suggesting people limit travel. 

Camden's acting director of public health Piers Simey told this newspaper: "Our public health advice to everyone remains the same: the best way to stop the spread of the virus is to follow the guidelines – get vaccinated when you’re eligible, remember hands, face, space and fresh air, and take up the offer of regular testing. Everyone can order free rapid tests to their home."

The town hall said it was "monitoring the data closely", and Mr Simey said it was vital people self-isolated with even the mildest symptoms. 

In Haringey, a council spokesperson said: "We are watching the situation closely in Haringey as well as across the capital.  At the moment overall Covid case rates in Haringey remain low and stable."

They said it was "likely" that vaccines would be effective against the new variant and encouraged people to continue to come forward when invited for their jab.

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In Barnet, director of public health Dr Tamara Djuretic said the vast majority of cases in the borough were of the Kent variant.

She said: "We have seen less than five per 100,000 cases of the Indian variant in Barnet since April. The situation is being monitored closely across London and all positive test results are being genome sequenced."

Like her colleagues, she emphasised the importance of vaccination and rapid-testing in combatting Covid-19.