Health officials have denied the existence of a Nepal variant of Covid-19 following reports a new mutant strain may have been detected in the UK.

The World Health Organisation said they have no knowledge of any new variant originating in the Himalayan nation after reports the UK’s SAGE committee is concerned by the mutation.

The Daily Mail claimed a Nepal variant could threaten foreign holidays to destinations such as Portugal, as the new vaccine-resistant variant may have been detected there and in other European countries.

Sources said the variant had been discovered in more than 20 people in the UK.

The Argus: Health officials have denied the existence of a Nepal variant of Covid-19Health officials have denied the existence of a Nepal variant of Covid-19

It is believed to be a version of the Indian variant which has acquired new mutations.

But the reports have been played down by global health leaders who say the Indian Delta variant is still the dominant strain in the country.

A WHO spokesperson said: “WHO is not aware of any new variant of SARS-CoV-2 being detected in Nepal.

“The three confirmed variants in circulation are: Alpha, Delta and Kappa.

“The predominant variant currently in circulation in Nepal is Delta.”

Dr Sameer Kumar Adhikari, a spokesman for Nepal’s Ministry of Health and Population, added: “So far, no new variant has been detected.

"We have confirmed three variants only.”

A member of the Government’s SAGE committee of experts told the Mail that officials should not be overly worried and added: “There are thousands of variants.

"This is a virus that is changing all the time.”

Covid names

A new naming scheme for noteworthy Covid variants has been introduced by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

From now on the WHO will use Greek letters to refer to variants first discovered in countries like India, South Africa and the UK.

The UK variant is therefore labelled as Alpha, the South African Beta, and the Indian as Delta.

The United Nations health body said the move was to simplify discussions but also to help remove some stigma from the names.

It also follows criticism from the Indian government that labelling variants according to where they were first detected leads to increased stigmatisation.

"No country should be stigmatised for detecting and reporting variants," the WHO's Covid-19 technical lead, Maria Van Kerkhove, tweeted.

She also called for "robust surveillance" of variants, and for the sharing of scientific data to help stop the spread.

The labels will refer to both variants of interest (VOI) and variants of concern (VOC) with the Greek alphabet chosen following "wide consultation and a review of several potential systems", according to Van Kerkhove.

She added that the labels do not replace existing scientific names such as B.1.1.7 which refers to the variant that was first identified in the UK. The new naming scheme is to help with public discussion of new variants.