Nepal variant: WHO says its ‘not aware’ of coronavirus strain after claims it could derail summer holidays

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A woman waits at a bus stop byt a sign warning members of the public about a
A woman waits at a bus stop by a sign warning members of the public about a 'coronavirus variant of concern' in Hounslow, west London. (Getty)

The World Health Organization has said it is “not aware” of a Nepal variant of coronavirus – despite the government reportedly saying it could have an impact on holidays.

Reports in the Daily Mail on Thursday suggested that the variant, first thought to have originated in Nepal, was behind a predicted rethink over whether countries on the green travel list would be downgraded to amber.

However, the WHO tweeted on Thursday morning: “WHO is not aware of any new variant of SARS-CoV-2 being detected in Nepal.

“The three confirmed variants in circulation are: Alpha (B.1.1.7), Delta (B.1.617.2) and Kappa (B.1.617.1).”

The WHO said that the predominant variant currently in circulation is the Indian variant – that they have renamed Delta.

The Daily Mail reported that ministers had been alerted to the Nepal strain by scientists, who said that it had spread to Europe and was resistant to vaccines.

Cases of COVID have surged in Nepal in recent weeks, but it is thought that the cause has been the spread of the variant from neighbouring India.

Watch: Nepal struggles with shortages of hospital beds and oxygen

Ministers are predicted to update the traffic light destination system on Thursday, which could see countries moving between the green, amber and red lists.

On Wednesday, Boris Johnson warned the government will have “no hesitation” over moving countries off the green list if necessary, and said it will “wait and see” what the recommendations of the Joint Biosecurity Centre are before announcing changes to the travel lists.

People returning to the UK from green locations are not required to self-isolate, and only need to take one post-arrival coronavirus test.

Travellers returning from amber list locations – which includes popular hotspots such as Spain, France, Italy and Greece – must quarantine at home for 10 days and take two post-arrival tests, while there is a travel ban to red list countries.

Portugal, the only viable major tourist destination currently on the green list, is reportedly one of the countries that could be downgraded to amber.

A plane takes off at Heathrow Airport, West London, as thousands of people have departed on international flights after the ban on foreign holidays was lifted for people in Britain.. Picture date: Monday May 17, 2021. (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)
Ministers are set to alter the travel list for foreign holidays. (Getty)

Assessments of travel lists are based on a range of factors, including the proportion of a population that has been vaccinated, rates of infection, emerging new variants, and access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing.

Home Office minister Victoria Atkins said the public should “exercise their common sense” about travelling abroad.

She told Times Radio: “We all want to get back to normality, pre-pandemic normality.

“But I think (we) all understand we’ve got to take careful steps to do that.”

Yahoo News UK has contacted Downing Street for a comment on the Nepal variant claims.

Watch: Confusion over 'amber list' holiday destinations

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