The new variant identified as the BA.2.75 variant, has a growth advantage over the BA.5 variant by over 921 percent
The UK Health Security Agency is understood to be aware of the variant, but a source said it was just one of a number of new strains that were being monitored and there was not yet currently a cause for concern.
It is present in at least five countries, with the most identified in India. Cases have also been found in the UK, with five cases, and in Germany, New Zealand and Canada.
Dr Shay Fleishon, an expert in covid variants in Israel, tweeted that the emergence of BA.2.75 was “alarming”, while Dr Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London, said the variant was “worth keeping a close eye on” due to its “apparent rapid growth and wide geographical spread”.
Dr Peacock said it was likely caused by the virus mutating in a patient with chronic infection from the BA.2 variant.
Of the latest rise in infections, the ONS said a total of 2.3 million people in private households were estimated to have had the virus last week, the highest estimate for total infections since late April, but still some way below the record high of 4.9 million seen at the peak of the Omicron BA.2 wave at the end of March.
This is a sharper rise than the previous week, when infections were up by 22 per cent, but a slower increase than following the Jubilee weekend, when prevalence in the UK was up by 43 per cent.
Hospital numbers are also continuing to increase, with early signs of a rise in intensive care admissions among older age groups.