New Delhi: With the new strain of novel coronavirus rapidly-spreading in the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s India trip in January might not take place after all, said Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the Chair of the Council of the British Medical Association on Tuesday. The foreign leader is scheduled to travel to India in January 2021 as the chief guest at the Republic Day parade in Delhi and for strengthening a key strategic relationship which supports jobs and investment across the UK. Also Read - 2 Dead After Receiving Jab, 5 Others Develop Severe Adverse Impacts, Centre Says Not Linked To Vaccine

According to a NDTV report, the senior British doctor said that while it was still too early for the country’s government to decide on PM Johnson’s visit, the trip “may not be possible, particularly if this level of infection and spread continues”. Also Read - Man Hides at Airport for Nearly 90 Days, Tells this Reason to Police

“Obviously we can’t make a decision today about something five weeks from now… changes to the virus’ reality happen on a day-to-day basis. But one consideration is that the trip to India may not be possible, particularly if this level of infection and spread continues,” Dr Nagpaul told. Also Read - UK Invites PM Modi to Attend G7, Boris Johnson Expected to Visit India 'Ahead Of Summit'

“But if the lockdown in London and other parts (the UK capital and other areas are under extremely stringent Tier 4 restrictions) controls the spread of the virus, then may be,” he said.

With at least 17 changes to its viral genetic load, this new mutant strain was detected in southeast England in September. “This strain – B.1.1.7 – offers no change in clinical severity or mortality, but is 70 per cent more transmissible which makes its containing a bigger challenge, said the doctor.

Dr. Nagpaul further said that occupancy levels at hospitals (including non-Covid facilities) were at 90 per cent, and that an extended period of lockdown may be needed in the UK (and other countries to which it may have spread) to contain the virus.

He stated, “We have a serious problem because hospitals in England are seeing more Covid patients now than in the first wave. Many hospitals are at full capacity – last week 44 ambulances had to be re-directed to remote facilities because there were no beds at local hospitals.”

The UK on December 14 reported to the WHO of the new variant that has been associated with an increase in R0, which is the number of people that one infected individual transmits the virus to, from 1.1 to 1.5. However, according to Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead on COVID-19 response at the WHO Health Emergencies Program, the UK variant is currently not affecting most of the Covid-19 diagnostic tests either, as most of the tests are looking at multiple targets within the genome. But very few tests that have only looked at a single target may be impacted in detecting this particular variant, she added.

The WHO experts urged the public to keep implementing existing public health measures, including wearing masks, hand hygiene and social distancing, which have been proven to be effective in curbing the spread of the virus, including the latest variant