Six cases of a Covid variant that first emerged in South America have been found in the UK for the first time.
All but one of the Lambda variant cases have been linked to travel, according to Public Health England’s (PHE) latest update.
As of Tuesday, there have been 6 cases of the Lambda strain in the UK between February 23 and June 7.
Four cases were discovered in London, one in the South West of England and one in the West Midlands.
Five of the cases had a history of travel overseas, and for one case the travel status is unknown, PHE said.
No deaths have been linked to the strain, officially called C.37, in the last 28 days, the update said.
The new strain has been categorised a variant under investigation by PHE on Wednesday as its mutation is feared to be more infectious and with increased resistance to antibodies, according to the health body.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) considers it a variant of interest, and it has been monitored by UK public health authorities since mid-April.
Scientists are still investigating whether the mutation has increased transmissibility or resistance to virus neutralising antibodies.
The first documented Lambda case was found in Peru, where it now makes up more than 80% of all cases.
It has been sequenced in 26 countries to date, PHE said.
Cases have emerged around South and Central America and the United States, and very small numbers have been traced in parts of Europe, according to the health body’s tally.
The delta variant, which first emerged in India, remains the dominant strain in the UK – accounting for more than 95% of all infections, according to PHE’s latest update.
PHE is now carrying out laboratory testing to better understand the variant.
There has been a 79% rise in one week in cases of the delta variant across the UK, PHE also revealed as 15,810 new infections were reported on Friday.
The PHE data shows that 75,953 confirmed and probable cases of the Covid-19 delta variant were found – up by 33,630 on the previous week.
Of the 75,953, some 70,856 have been in England, 4,659 in Scotland, 254 in Northern Ireland and 184 in Wales.
Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said the increase across the UK is being driven by younger age groups, many of whom have now been invited for a vaccination as the jab rollout extends to anyone aged 18 and over.
Nearly 44million first doses and more than 32 million second jabs have been given out.
And while hospital cases have also almost doubled, most patients needing treatment have not had a vaccine, according to officials.
The Prime Minister said: “I’m very confident that we’ll be able to go through with step four of the road map on the timetable that I’ve set out with treating July 19, as I’ve said, as a terminus date.
“I think that’s certainly what the data continues to indicate.”