A further 73 cases of the B.1.617 variant have been confirmed in England.
Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said the variant features two “escape mutations” – E484Q and L452R – which “are causing people to be concerned”.
“There’s laboratory evidence that both of these are escape mutations,” he said.
“Basically, applying what we know about other human coronaviruses would suggest that this is going to be even less controlled by vaccine.
“But we don’t know that for certain at the moment.”
The figures come from the latest update of PHE’s surveillance of the distribution of different variants across the UK.
Officials have designated it a “variant under investigation” (VUI) rather than a “variant of concern” (VOC), such as the South African variant.
In India, Covid-19 rates are soaring, with more than 13.9 million confirmed cases and 172,000 deaths.
The country, however, is not currently on the UK Government’s “red list” of travel ban nations, which sees people who have been in those countries in the previous ten days refused entry.
British or Irish nationals, or people with UK residency rights, are able to return from red list countries, but must isolate in a quarantine hotel for ten days.
Confirmation of the cases comes the day Scotland relaxed restrictions on travel and outdoor meet-ups. From Friday, up to six people from six different households are allowed to meet.
Travel between Scotland and England however is still restricted until April 26.