A new Covid variant described as a "descendent of Delta" is being monitored by the Scottish Government, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed. 

Known scientifically as AY.4.2, some reports suggest that the variant has the potential to be slightly more transmissible that the original Delta variant, which itself is much more transmissible that the original Covid variants discovered in 2019. 

However, with tests currently underway, there is so far no indication that it is significantly more transmissible, and experts are keen to acknowledge that virus mutation is very common and not necessarily reason for concern.

With this in mind, here's what we know about the so-called Delta plus variant...

What is Delta plus? 

AY.4.2, or Delta plus, has been described as a "descendant of Delta" and was discovered by scientists in July 2021, shortly after Delta became the predominant variant in the UK. 

While the new variant's presence is increasing in the UK, it is not rising as fast as the original Delta earlier this year. 

Experts are monitoring the variant, however it has not been deemed a "variant under investigation" or a "variant of concern". 

Delta plus has mutations which impact the spike protein, which viruses use to attack the body's cells. 

If examination finds that this variant is likely to be more infectious than the original Delta, it will be promoted to a "variant under investigation". 

More tests will then be done to determine whether it should become a "variant of concern". 

The good news is that currently experts do not believe that Delta plus will take hold, meaning it could drop off the watch list soon. 

What do experts say about Delta plus?

Professor Francois Balloux, director of University College London's Genetics Institute, said "don't panic" regarding the new variant, which is "nothing" like the situation with Alpha or Delta.

"It's nothing compared with what we saw with Alpha and Delta, which were something like 50 to 60 percent more transmissible. So we are talking about something quite subtle here and that is currently under investigation.

"It is likely to be up to 10 percent more transmissible.

"It's good that we are aware. It's excellent that we have the facilities and infrastructure in place to see anything that might be a bit suspicious.

"At this stage I would say wait and see, don't panic. It might be slightly, subtly more transmissible but it is not something absolutely disastrous like we saw previously."

What have Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson said about Delta plus?

In a tweet posted on Tuesday afternoon, Nicola Sturgeon said: "The need to monitor this was discussed ⁦at Scottish Government ⁩ Cabinet earlier.

"More generally, cases here - though lower than few weeks ago - remain higher than we’d like.

"So pls take care: wear masks, wash hands, ventilate indoor spaces & get vaccinated."

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Boris Johnson said: "It's something we're keeping a very close eye on.

"As you would expect we're monitoring it closely and won't hesitate to take action if necessary."