India on Thursday reported five new cases of the mutant strain of the coronavirus, pushing the tally in the country to 25. The new strain of the virus, first discovered in the United Kingdom, is believed to be 70% more transmissible.

Four new cases were found by Pune’s National Institute of Virology, and one new case was sequenced at the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, Delhi.

India had reported 14 cases of the new variant on Wednesday. The first six cases were discovered on Tuesday. India has also extended the temporary suspension on flights till January 7, 2021, to contain the spread of the new strain. More than 50 countries have imposed travel restrictions on the UK.

The new variant of the infection has also been reported in Denmark, Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Sweden, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Japan, Lebanon and Singapore.

The new UK virus variant, which scientists have named “VUI – 202012/01”, includes a genetic mutation in the “spike” protein, which could result in coronavirus spreading more easily between people. It was first announced by Matt Hancock, the UK health secretary, on December 14, and was subsequently confirmed by Public Health England and the UK’s Covid-19 sequencing consortium. Screening back through databases of SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes Covid-19, the first sample was taken in the county of Kent on September 20.

The variant carries 14 defining mutations including seven in the spike protein, which mediates entry of the virus into human cells. This is a relatively large number of changes compared to the many variants in circulation globally. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has claimed that this was as much as 70% more transmissible than previous versions. But there is currently no evidence that the variant is more likely to cause severe coronavirus infections or that it would render vaccines less effective.

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