A new, more contagious coronavirus variant linked to a recent surge in cases in England has been identified by UK authorities.
The new strain – believed to have origins in South Africa – comes on top of the other new variant which has been sweeping the UK and is considered to be around 70 per cent more contagious.
The new mutation is being called VUI-202012/01 — the first “Variant Under Investigation” in the UK in December 2020. While scientists hunt for more information about the variant, its impact is already being felt, with dozens of countries imposing restrictions on travellers from the UK.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the new strain in a country of more than 68 million people was concerning.
“This new variant is highly concerning, because it is yet more transmissible and it appears to have mutated further than the new variant that’s been discovered in the UK.”
The UK government has announced it will be imposing travel restrictions on South Africa.
A variant occurs when the genetic structure of a virus changes. All viruses mutate over time and new variants are common, including for the novel coronavirus.
Like other variants, this one carries a genetic fingerprint that makes it easy to track, and it happens to be one that is now widespread in southeast England. That alone does not necessarily mean a variant is more contagious or dangerous.
But scientists advising the UK government have estimated that this variant could be up to 70 per cent more effective at spreading than others.
Peter Horby, chair of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), said Wednesday that scientists were “confident” the new variant is “spreading faster than other virus variants.”