Three cases of the new Indian variant of coronavirus have been found in Manchester, the city’s public health director has confirmed.

It is not yet clear where in Manchester they have been identified, but they are all said to be linked to a recent trip to India.

Some cases have also been found in Lancashire.

David Regan, Manchester’s public health director, said the people affected have been following the correct quarantine rules and their contacts have been traced and notified.

The new variant was identified in Maharashtra region of India at the start of March and has been of interest to public health officials here due to its sustained spread internationally, as well as the mutations it features.

Those mutations, known as E484Q and L425R, are being studied in laboratories to see whether they may be more resistant to the vaccines developed so far, but there is no evidence currently to suggest that it causes more severe disease, according to Public Health England.

Covid-19 cases are rising in India as a new variant originating in the country has been identified in the UK

Experts are also investigating whether it is in fact more transmissible.

Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, Mr Regan said it has so far been classed as a ‘variant under investigation’, as opposed to the ‘variant of concern’ label applied to the South African and Brazilian strains that have made highlights in recent months.

“That means at the moment, we’re still trying to gather all the data, working with our colleagues in public health in India about how it’s transmitted, what the issues are in relation to the vaccine,” he said.

“However because it is a variant under investigation, we are now getting notified of any cases in our locality. There has been over 100 cases across the UK. We do now know, as of yesterday, of a small number of cases in Manchester. We know there are cases in Lancashire.”

The council has confirmed there have been three cases identified in Manchester, although it is yet to confirm whether they relate to one household or two.

Mr Regan added: “Just to reassure the public, the people involved, they’ve been following all the quarantine advice - there is a travel link.

A sample being taken at a Covid-19 testing centre
A sample being taken at a Covid-19 testing centre

“They’re doing all the right things, contacts have been traced appropriately and we have got the correct control measures in place

“But we’re going to have to learn to live with these variants. There’ll be more that do arise and we have to do the research very quickly, because we want to make sure we develop vaccines - the booster vaccines that you’ll have heard mentioned - that can also respond to these new variants.”

Government has been on high alert for new Covid strains since last year, labelling some of them ‘variants of concern’, as it seeks to ensure any new versions of the virus can be identified and vaccines adapted if necessary.

That has included the South African variant, which has also been detected in Manchester.

Surge testing was carried out when the first cases of the South African strain were detected here and a similar programme is currently ongoing in London, but as yet there has been none announced in relation to the Indian variant, as it is not yet a 'variant of concern'.

Mr Regan said that ultimately, the same basic messages apply, stressing that it is ‘very important that the public play their part, that we continue to follow the rules’.

“We want to make sure that, particularly with these new variants, that people still follow the advice,” he added.