UK has two cases of variant linked to South Africa
The UK has detected two cases of another “more transmissible” variant of coronavirus, the health secretary Matt Hancock says.
Both cases are linked to travel to South Africa, where the variant has been linked to a surge in cases.
Travel restrictions with South Africa have been imposed.
Anyone who has traveled there in the past fortnight, and anyone they have been in contact with, are being told to quarantine immediately.
Mr. Hancock said: “We are incredibly grateful to the South African government for the rigour of their science and the openness and the transparency with which they have rightly acted as we did when we discovered a new variant here.”
At the same briefing, the health secretary announced millions of more people were being moved to Tier 4 on Boxing Day.
The two recently identified variants – one found first in the UK and the South African variant – share some similarities but have evolved separately.
Both have a mutation – called N501Y – which is a crucial part of the virus that it uses to infect the body’s cells.
Prof Susan Hopkins, from Public Health England (PHE), said “both look like they are more transmissible” but said they were “still learning” about the variant imported from South Africa.
She said she was “pretty confident” the quarantine and travel rules would control the spread of the new variant.
Scientists in South Africa say the variant “spread rapidly” and became the dominant form of the virus in parts of the country.
Their report concluded:” Whilst the full significance of the mutations is yet to be determined, the genomic data, showing the rapid displacement of other lineages, suggesting that this lineage may be associated with increased transmissibility.”