A new variant of coronavirus has been identified in the southeast of England that could present problems for the UK’s vaccination programme, the health secretary has announced.
Speaking in the Commons, Matt Hancock said: “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 south of England.”
“Initial analysis suggests that this variant is growing faster than existing variants,” Hancock told MPs.
“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 numbers are increasing rapidly,” he added.
Ministers have notified the World Health Organisation, Hancock announced. Similar variants are thought to have been identified in other countries over the past few months.
“At this point there is currently nothing to suggest that this variant is more likely to cause serious disease, and the latest clinical advice is that it’s highly unlikely that this mutations would fail to respond to a vaccine,” the health secretary said.