It is "probably only just a matter of time" before cases of the Indian Covid-19 variant are detected in Derbyshire, its public health chief says.
Dean Wallace, public health director for Derbyshire County Council, made the comments after it was revealed that three cases of the potentially more infectious Indian variant had been detected in Leicester.
These cases were linked to travel from India.
Earlier this month, scientists across the globe started to detect cases of a new variant of the virus, traced back to India.
Public Health England says that, as of April 22, 132 cases of the new variant have been found in the UK.
Dean Wallace, public health director for Derbyshire County Council, said: “So far we are not aware of any Indian variant cases in Derbyshire. But with cases elsewhere in the East Midlands it is probably only just a matter of time.
“Any new variant risks putting us back to square one, so everyone needs to carry on with the basics like regular hand-washing, wearing face coverings if they can, keeping their distance from others and making sure there is plenty of fresh air around them.
“We’re doing so well with the vaccination programme here and I’d urge everyone to take up their opportunity to get their vaccine when they are offered it.”
A Derby City Council official said there has not yet been any cases of the Indian variant in the city which required targeted or surge testing and that the authority is not aware of any person-to-person transmission in the city.
Dr Robyn Dewis, director of public health for the city council, said: “Travel outside the country is currently only allowed in exceptional circumstances and anyone who is travelling internationally needs to be fully aware of the restrictions and guidelines in place for when they leave and return.
“Most importantly, that you should self-isolate and take a COVID test upon arrival in the UK.
“Some countries have also been placed on the ‘Red List’ and this means you are highly discouraged from travelling there and must quarantine upon return for 10 days in a Government-approved hotel.
“Full details of travel restrictions are on the Government website.
“As we emerge out of lockdown, it is vital that we all follow these guidelines for the safety of ourselves and our communities.
“Even if we have not travelled, we should not forget our simple steps of keeping our distance and washing our hands when we leave our homes.
“These are our best methods to ensure we can continue to ease restrictions and do so safely.”
It is believed the Indian variant may be more contagious than other forms of the virus, but it has not been listed as a “variant of concern” alongside the UK, Brazil and South Africa variants.
India has been left reeling from a massive outbreak of the new variant of Covid and left bodies piling up in hospital morgues. The country has now hit 200,000 Covid deaths and is recording more than 200,000 cases of the virus a day.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejrilwal has warned that the wave is being driven by a “supremely contagious” variant of the disease which is causing more severe cases of Covid that take longer to recover from.
Public Health England was approached for comment but it has not responded as of this article’s publication.
Keep up to date with all the latest local and national developments here: https://www.