Experts say there is currently no evidence to suggest that the variant is more likely to cause serious disease. ‘This kind of evolution and mutations are quite common.’
A new variant of Covid-19 has been identified in the southeast of England, where it may be connected to a faster transmission, according to UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock. More than 1,000 cases of this variant have been identified in the last few days in England, primarily in the south of the country.
“Over the last few days, thanks to our world-class genomic capability in the UK, we have identified a new variant of coronavirus which may be associated with the faster spread in the southeast of England,” Hancock told the House of Commons on December 14.
He explained, “Initial analysis suggests that this variant is growing faster than the existing variants. We’ve currently identified over 1,000 cases with this variant predominantly in the south of England although cases have been identified in nearly 60 different local authority areas. And the numbers are increasing rapidly. Similar variants have been identified in other countries over the last few months.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has been notified and the variant is being studied by Public Health England (PHE) at its Porton Down facility, informed Hancock. However, the new variant is unlikely to cause more serious disease than other variants.
“I must stress at this point that there is currently nothing to suggest that the variant is more likely to cause serious disease, and the latest clinical advice is that it’s highly unlikely that this mutation would fail to respond to a vaccine. But it shows we’ve got to be vigilant and follow the rules and everyone needs to take personal responsibility not to spread this virus,” he emphasized.
Hancock told the House that over the last week, there has been very sharp, exponential rises in coronavirus infections across London, Kent, parts of Essex and Hertfordshire. “We do not know the extent to which this is because of the new variant but no matter its cause we have to take swift and decisive action which unfortunately is absolutely essential to control this deadly disease while the vaccine is rolled out,” he stated.
The UK’s Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, also said it was unclear whether the new variant had contributed to the rise in cases. Speaking later at a briefing, Whitty stressed that there was no evidence that the new variant was more dangerous than the previous one.
What experts are saying
Dr Michael Ryan, the executive director of the WHO’s emergencies program, said the agency was aware of the variant. “This kind of evolution and mutations are. Brinkwire Brief News.