By Michael Jarvis, UK Correspondent
Health experts and governments around the world are scrambling to respond to the latest threat from the still-marauding COVID-19 pandemic.
A new Indian variant has become a cause for global concern with experts worried that current vaccines might be ineffective against it.
India is currently witnessing a marked surge in COVID-19 cases leading the British government to put it on a Red List of countries on which it has imposed travel restrictions.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week cancelled an official trip to India at the last minute on the advice of the UK’s medical authorities.
Experts say this variant of the COVID-19 virus, labelled B1617 - or the India variants - may be able to spread more easily than earlier forms of the virus.
The number of cases of this variant found in the UK has been increasing due largely to the huge volumes of travel with India, but there are now reports of local transmission in people’s homes.
UK authorities responsible for advising the government on the COVID-19 pandemic were said to be looking into whether the variant should be upgraded from a “variant under investigation” to a “variant of concern”.
Cases have also been found in Canada, the United States, Israel and several European countries and are said to be connected mainly to travel links with India.
Several areas in India have been placed on lockdown due to surging cases of this particular variant alongside the earlier detected strains of the virus.
The country has been experiencing a new wave of COVID-19 infections comparative to the ongoing spiralling outbreak in Brazil.
The cause of the spike in cases spread over large parts of India has puzzled Indian health experts as up to recently the country was reported to be excelling with its vaccination programme and bringing down infections.
Mass gatherings for religious and other festivals are being looked at as likely trigger points for the new wave of infections.