Health Secretary Matt Hancock is set to make a Covid announcement this afternoon amid reports of a new coronavirus variant.

Mr Hancock is expected to make a statement in the Commons at around 3.30pm as concerns grow over a new variant which is said to have originated from India.

Experts say the new variant should be “watched carefully” to prevent widespread infection across the UK, with health officials investigating whether it spreads more easily and evades vaccines.

According to the Public Health England, more than 70 cases of the India variant have been identified in England and Scotland.

The Health Secretary is also expected to announce foreign travel plans for all countries for this summer with a travel ban for India a possibility.

As concerns over the India variant continue to grow, Dr Jeffrey Barrett, director of the Covid-19 Genomics Initiative has urged people to remain cautious but not be overly concerned.

He said: “The variant of the virus first identified in India should be watched carefully but it is probably not at the top tier of mutations that generate the most concern.”

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme that the first cases of the variant were identified late last year.

He added: “This variant has a couple of mutations that are among those that we think are important that should be watched carefully, but they’re actually probably not at the very kind of top tier of mutations, for example in the B117 – or Kent variant – or the South African variant, that generate the most concern.

“And in terms of spread, clearly this variant has increased in frequency in India around the same time as their very large and tragic recent wave, but I just don’t think we know yet whether there’s a cause and effect relationship – is this variant driving that spread? Or is it happening at the same time perhaps due to a coincidence?”

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“One thing to note is that there were some sequences of this variant B1.617 seen late last year. And so in some sense, if it really is driving this wave, the fuse has been burning for quite a long time, which would make it look, probably less transmissible than B117.”

Matt Hancock is expected to address the House of Commons today and provide an update on the latest coronavirus news and discuss the spread of the India variant throughout the UK.