Public Health England (PHE) has been tracking the spread of the B.1.617.2 mutation – which originated in India – by testing positive Covid-19 cases across the country for an S-gene.
The gene is not present in the dominant Kent variant, which was responsible for a surge in cases over the winter, but is present in other variants of concern, including those from India.
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Scientists have determined that the vast majority of the S-gene specimens identified across England in May are the Indian variant.
PHE identified one positive case of the S-gene in Portsmouth between May 2 and 14.
A spokeswoman for public health in Portsmouth said the link to the Indian variant was by ‘no means certain’ and the gene could indicate towards the South African or other variants.
The majority of areas in England have reported at least one case.
The data shows 6,729 S-gene positive cases were recorded in England between the start of March and May 11 – up from 4,363 by May 5.
Of these, 408 (6 per cent) were in the South East – the sixth largest proportion of England's nine regions, but well behind the north west, where there are almost 3,000.
PHE analysis suggests that of a national sample of 1,192 positive S-gene specimens, 93 per cent were found to be the B.1.617.2 Indian mutation.
The data comes as a separate PHE study found both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines were highly effective against the Indian strain after a second dose.
However, the same study found they were only 33 per cent effective three weeks after the first dose.
In Southampton three positive cases of the S-gene were detected between May 8 and 14.