We are all familiar with the Alpha and Delta variants, but just how many Covid-19 variants are there? 

Most recently the Delta variant has wreaked havoc across the country, contributing to a sharp surge in cases around the UK. 

Fortunately the vaccines seem to be working, with hospitalisations still relatively low in comparison to the record breaking infection rates. 

Mutations of the virus are to be expected and with Covid showing no sign of disappearing any time soon, here's everything you need to know about all the Covid variants.

What is the Alpha variant?

The Alpha variant is a strain of Covid that was identified in the UK in September last year.

It caused a huge second wave of Covid infections due to the fact it was up to 50% more transmissable than earlier strains of the virus. 

It quickly became the most prevalent strain in the UK, so it was a major breakthrough when it was discovered that the vaccines had high efficacy against the Alpha variant. 

What is the Beta variant? 

First discovered in South Africa in May 2020, the Beta variant was also found to be more transmissable than initial strains, like the Alpha variant.

Again, the vaccine has huge levels of efficacy against this variant. 

What is the Delta variant? 

The Delta variant has caused the most problems in the UK over recent weeks, resulting in a steep rise in cases as the four nations continue to ease lockdown. 

The Delta variant was first identified in India and is thought to be even more transmissable than the Alpha strain, hence the recent rise in cases. 

Fortunately, the vaccine seems to be doing it's job, with hospital admissions remaining relatively stable despite the fact Scotland recorded its highest number of daily cases ever last week. 

What is the Gamma variant? 

The Gamma variant was identified in Brazil in November 2020 and is similar to the Alpha and Beta strain in its protein make-up. 

However, the Gamma variant is not as transmissable as the Alpha or Delta and is therefore not as prevalent. 

What is the Lambda variant? 

Discovered in Peru late last year, the Lambda variant has recently been deemed a "variant of interest" by the World Health Organisation. 

This means it has the potential to cause "significant community transmission" in "multiple countries". 

Public Health England is investigating the variant, but has said that "there is currently no evidence that this variant causes more severe disease or renders the vaccines currently deployed any less effective."

Why do the variants have Greek alphabet names? 

The WHO decided to name the different variants using the Greek alphabet to prevent prejudice against the countries where the variants are discovered.

What's the difference between variants of interest and variants of concern?

A variant of interest is supected to be more contagious or cause more severe disease than an initial strain. 

A variant can also be considered "of interest" if it is suspected that it may escape vaccine efficacy. 

A variant of interest then becomes a variant of concern if evidence surfaces  to prove any of these suspicions true.