Full list of 16 Covid variants spreading in England - and what they mean for you

By James Robinson

Cases of coronavirus are once again surging throughout the country - almost two months since "Freedom Day".

On July 19, the remainder of England's coronavirus restrictions were scrapped by the Government, allowing the country to return to its most normal state since the first restrictions were imposed in March 2020.

Most shops told customers they did not need to wear a face covering indoors, weddings were allowed to go ahead without a limited number of attendees and nightclubs were open again for the first time in 16 months.

Read more: Go here for the latest coronavirus updates and breaking Covid-19 news

However, with the new found freedom has come a surge in cases.

With restrictions in place, numbers were reducing, but they have once again increased.

On Wednesday it was revealed the UK's death toll had risen by 191 and cases had increased by 15 per cent.

A total of 38,975 new cases were also reported, a day after figures showed deaths had quadrupled in a week.

With rising case numbers has also come the emergence of different variants of coronavirus and concerns of whether the vaccines available can combat them.

Variants are being investigated and tracked as people test positive for them and figures are published on the Government's website which show the amount of new cases of the variants since the last update, and the total so far.

Here are the full list of Covid variants of concern - kept under closest watch - and how many cases there have been so far.

Alpha

This variant was first detected in the UK and was first sequenced in the UK in September 2020.

So far, in the UK, a total of 277, 588 people have contracted the Alpha variant, with 226,855 of the total cases being recorded in England. It has so far spread to over 50 countries.

The N501Y mutation, seen in the Alpha variant may help the virus spread more easily.

Beta

So far, data up to August 25 shoes there has been 1,093 cases of the Beta variant in the UK.

England accounts for 979 of those cases, Northern Ireland, 9, Scotland, 62, and Wales, 43.

The Beta variant was first identified in South Africa but has been detected in at least 20 other countries. Beta also shares the N501Y mutation, like the Alpha variant, meaning the virus spreads more easily.

Beta also has a key mutation, called E484K that could help the virus sidestep some of the body's immune defences.

Delta

The most dominant of the variants listed, Delta swept the country this summer, making case numbers rise.

In total, there has been 535,387 cases of the Delta variant in the UK.

England accounts for 443,429 of those, Northern Ireland, 25, 651, Scotland, 49, 855 and Wales 16,452.

There is no evidence that the Delta variant causes more serious illness. Delta has some undergone some changes to their spike protein, the part of the virus that attaches to human cells.

It means it could spread more easily, although there is no evidence to show it might make current vaccines less effective.

A Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine being prepared (PA)

Analysis by Public Health England found two doses of either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines was more than 90 per cent more effective against hospitalisations for Covid-19 caused by the Delta variant.

A single dose was less effective at preventing illness from Delta, compared to how well it worked against Alpha.

VOC-21FEB-02

This variant was first detected in the UK in December 2020 and there has so far been just 46 cases in total in the UK, with England accounting for 45 cases and Northern Ireland for one.

Gamma

The Gamma variant was first detected in Japan in travellers from Brazil in January 2021 and was first detected in the UK in February this year.

So far, there has been a total of 272 cases detected in the UK. All but two cases were recorded in England.

Wales recorded two cases.

The Gamma variant also shares the mutation, N501Y which makes the virus better at infecting cells and spreading.

It also has the E484K mutation that could help the virus sidestep some of the body's immune defences.

Kappa

The Kappa variant has seen a total of 494 cases in the UK.

It was first detected in India.

England has recorded 448 cases of this variant, Northern Ireland, four, Scotland, 27, and Wales, 15.

VUI - 21APR-03

This variant was also first detected in India. It is responsible for 16 total cases in the UK, 13 of which were recorded in England.

Little is known about this rare variant.

VUI -21FEB-01

Seventy-nine cases have been recorded in total in the UK, all were recorded in England.

Again, little is known about this mutation - but case numbers are thankfully small.

Eta

The Eta variant was first detected in the UK in December last year.

A total of 497 cases have been recorded in the UK, with 445 of them in England.

Northern Ireland recorded a total of two cases, Scotland, 40 and Wales, 10.

It has been detected in over 23 countries.

The Delta variant doubles the risk of people with Covid needing hospital treatment, a study has found (Getty Images)

VUI-21FEB-04

This variant is responsible for a UK total of 358 cases. 302 of those cases were recorded in England, 45 of them were recorded in Northern Ireland and 11 of them were recorded in Scotland.

It was first detected in the UK and declared a VUI in February this year. It also shares the E484k mutation that could help the virus sidestep some of the body's immune defences.

Zeta

The Zeta variant was first detected in Brazil and was first sequenced in the UK in November last year.

The UK has recorded a total of 60 cases of this variant.

England has recorded 54 cases, Scotland, five and Wales, one.

Theta

Ten cases of this variant have been detected in the UK, with seven in England and three in Scotland.

It was originally detected in the Philippines and was declared a VUI in March this year after two cases linked to travel tested positive in the UK. It contains the mutations E484k and N501Y.

VUI-21MAY-01

This variant was one that was found much later than the earlier ones. It was first detected in the UK in May this year but England has already recorded the UK's total of cases for it, 185.

It was first detected in Yorkshire and the Humber.

VUI-21MAY-02

This variant was first detected in Thailand in travellers that had gone there from Egypt.

153 cases have been detected in the UK, with 142 of them being detected in England, three in Nothern Ireland, four in Scotland and four in Wales.

The variant is based on an "unusual mutation profile" and increased importation from a widening international area.

Lambda

There is a total of eight cases of the Lambda variant in the UK, all of which were detected in England.

It was first detected in Peru in August 2020. All of England's cases have been linked to overseas travel.

There are fears the Lambda strain's mutations may make vaccines less effective ((Frederic Sierakowski, Pool via AP))

VUI-21JUL-01

This variant has a total of 48 cases recorded in the UK, with 44 recorded in England, one in Northern Ireland, two in Scotland and one in Wales.

It was escalated to a VUI on July 21 this year. There is currently no evidence that it causes more severe disease or renders the vaccines currently deployed any less effective.

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