A new variant of Covid-19 has been identified in the UK and is being “monitored”, according to a government agency.

A total 637 cases of XE – a recombinant of Omicron BA.1 and BA.2 – have been confirmed so far according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSCA).

The variant is said to have first been detected from a specimen dated of January 19 this year.

The UKHSCA said there is currently insufficient evidence to draw conclusions about growth advantage or other properties of this variant but added it would “continue to monitor all recombinants closely, routinely through our world-leading genomic surveillance and sequencing capability”.

Bournemouth Echo: Professor Susan Hopkins, UKHSCA Chief Medical Advisor. Picture: PAProfessor Susan Hopkins, UKHSCA Chief Medical Advisor. Picture: PA

Professor Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor, added: “Recombinant variants are not an unusual occurrence, particularly when there are several variants in circulation, and several have been identified over the course of the pandemic to date. As with other kinds of variant, most will die off relatively quickly.

“This particular recombinant, XE, has shown a variable growth rate and we cannot yet confirm whether it has a true growth advantage. So far there is not enough evidence to draw conclusions about transmissibility, severity or vaccine effectiveness.

“UKHSA will continue to monitor the situation closely as a matter of routine, as we do all data relating to SARS-CoV-2 variants both in the UK and internationally.”