Kerala on Monday for the first time reported six new cases of the new strain of the coronavirus, according to NDTV. The new strain of the infection was first reported in the United Kingdom and is believed to be 70% more transmissible.

“Six people who recently returned from the UK have tested positive for the new strain,” Health Minister KK Shailja said, according to PTI. “We have placed them under surveillance. Their samples had been sent to NIV [National Institute of Virology], Pune and results received today.”

While two cases each were reported from Alappuzha and Kozhikode, one person each tested positive for the mutant strain in Kottayam and Kannur districts.

Five cases of the mutant strain were reported in Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut, where all those infected belong to a single family. The chief medical officer said that one of the infected person is a two-year-old girl.

Karnataka Health Minister K Sudhakar said that three people have tested positive for the mutant strain of the coronavirus. There are now 10 such cases in the state, he added.

Eight new cases were suspected in Maharashtra. “Eight passengers from the UK who returned to Maharashtra were found to have symptoms of the new coronavirus, including 5 from Mumbai, one each from Pune, Thane and Mira Bhayandar,” Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope tweeted. “All of them are in segregation and their contact tracing is underway.”

Meanwhile, the Maharashtra chief medical officer said that some people, returning from the UK, were arriving in airports outside the state and then coming to Mumbai to avoid quarantine.

The new virus strain

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 23 mutations in its genetic code a relatively high number of changes compared with the version that originated in Wuhan, China, a year ago and some of these are affecting its ability to spread. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has claimed that this was as much as 70% more transmissible than previous versions.

Most scientists have said that the new variant has rapidly become the dominant strain in coronavirus cases in parts of southern England, and have linked it to an increase in hospitalisation rates. However, it is difficult to say exactly how much more transmissible the new variant may be as scientists have not yet done the kind of lab experiments that are required to assess it.

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