The newest Covid variant first detected in New York has found its way to the UK after health chiefs discovered three cases.
Experts fear the new strain, called B.1.526, carries a mutation that might weaken the effectiveness of vaccines.
Many cases of B.1.526 in New York have been found to contain the E484K mutation, also seen in South Africa and Brazil variants, and is believed to make vaccines less effective.
Meera Chand, PHE Incident Director for COVID-19, said: “Public Health England is aware of three UK cases of the B.1.526 lineage of SARS-CoV-2 that was first detected in New York.
“None of these cases feature the E484K or S477N mutations that are present on some Variants of Concern.”
“PHE is monitoring the situation closely. We are working with partners across the world to identify and mitigate the impact of variants as they emerge.”
A virologist at the University of Warwick believes the New York variant is a “cause for concern.”
Professor Lawrence Young said that “This find reinforces how important it is to keep an eye on things. We are not out of the woods yet.”
“It reinforces the fact that while things are looking really good right now there is no room for complacency.”
“We need to keep Test and Trace going and stamp out what are inevitably going to be local outbreaks.'”
Several other European countries have also reported cases of the New York variant.