Over 1,000 cases of new virus variant found in Britain, says health minister - GulfToday

Over 1,000 cases of new virus variant found in Britain, says health minister


Shoppers and pedestrians pass under the Christmas lights on Oxford Street in central London on Monday. AFP

Over 1,000 cases of a new coronavirus variant have been identified in the past few days in England, predominantly in the south of the country where it could be connected to a surge in cases, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Monday.

“We have identified a new variant of coronavirus, which may be associated with the faster spread in the southeast of England,” Hancock said in a statement to parliament.

“Initial analysis suggests that this variant is growing faster than the existing variants,” he said. “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,” he added.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is aware of a new variant of COVID-19 that has emerged in Britain, but there is no evidence the strain behaves differently to existing types of the virus, it said on Monday.

“We are aware of this genetic variant reported in 1,000 individuals in England,” the WHO’s top emergencies expert Mike Ryan told a news briefing in Geneva. “Authorities are looking at its significance. We have seen many variants, this virus evolves and changes over time.”

HandcockMatt Hancock updaties MPS on the status of the coronavirus at the House of Commons. AFP

London is to move into the highest level of coronavirus restrictions due to concern about spiralling numbers of infections,  Hancock announced on Monday.

The British capital’s move into “Tier 3” from Wednesday means theatres as well as pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues will have to close, except for takeaway food.

People are not supposed to socialise with anyone not from their household, but they can meet in groups of up to six in public places outside.

Hancock said London had seen a “sharp rise” in daily cases and hospital admissions, and there was public health concern about a new strain of the coronavirus.

“This action is absolutely essential, not just to keep people safe but because we have seen early action can prevent more damage and longer-term problems later,” he told parliament.


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