Coronavirus Variant Identified In England

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UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

Sixty different local authorities in England have reported around 1,000 infections caused by a new COVID-19 variant.

The variant is not thought to have an impact on disease severity or mortality, or on the efficacy of a vaccine. It has been reported to WHO.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in Parliament today: “We have identified a new variant of coronavirus which may be associated with the faster spread in the South East of England. Initial analysis suggests that this variant is growing faster than the existing variants.”

“WHO [is] working together with scientists around the world, evaluating each of the variants that are being identified,” said Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO COVID-19 Technical Lead, in a press briefing on Monday.

She added that studies designed to understand the “virus’ behaviour, its ability to transmit or its ability to cause different forms of disease” are “underway in the UK”.

The UK is currently experiencing a sharp rise in cases, notably in London, the South East and South Wales.

“Above all, this is a reminder that there is still so much to learn about COVID-19 … The speed at which this has been picked up on is also testament to this phenomenal research effort,” said Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome. “However, there is no room for complacency. We have to remain humble and be prepared to adapt and respond to new and continued challenges as we move into 2021.”

He added that there will be surprises in how the virus “evolves and [in] the trajectory of the pandemic in the coming year.”

The full statement delivered by Matt Hancock is available here.

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