The Indian strain of Covid-19 may resist vaccines and "scupper the UK's escape plan" out of lockdown, according to a top scientist.
This comes after 77 cases of the B.1.617 variant, first discovered in India, were found in the UK.
Professor Danny Altmann, a professor of immunology at Imperial College London, says he "suspected" the Indian Covid strain would be escalated to a "variant of concern" as it could be evasive to any of our vaccines.
He told BBC Radio 4: "I think we should be terribly concerned about it.
"They (variants of concern) are things that can most scupper our escape plan at the moment and give us a third wave. They are a worry."
He also said he found it "mystifying" that India was not on the UK's "red-list" of countries already, which means that people arriving from "red list" countries are subject to a hotel quarantine.
However, officials have currently listed it as a "variant under investigation", and not a variant of concern.
In India, Covid-19 rates have been soaring with over 174,000 deaths and 14 million confirmed cases. Professor Altmann added that the Indian variant is being seen in a high proportion of positive cases in India.
In the UK, Covid-19 infections have fallen to the lowest level since the autumn, according to the latest figures.
England, Wales and Northern Ireland all eased restrictions on Monday, with pubs and shops now able to open across England.
Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, also said the Indian variant is worrying.
He told The Times: “When you look at the South African strain it has one escape mutation. Escape mutations are mutations that make it less controlled by prior immunity.
“The big concern with the Indian variant is it potentially has two escape mutations. If that is the case then it might be even more resistant to vaccine than the South African variant, which we know is partially resistant.”
However, Downing Street has insisted that Boris Johnson's trip to India will go ahead.
A Downing Street spokesperson told reporters: "The Prime Minister's visit is still happening later this month". It will be his first major international visit since completing a Brexit trade deal.
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