- The UK found a second, possibly more infectious, variant of the coronavirus, originating in South Africa, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told a news conference on Wednesday.
- “This new variant is highly worrying because it is even more transmissible and appears to have undergone more mutations than the new variant that was discovered in the UK,” said Hancock.
- Last weekend, the British government warned of another variant of the coronavirus that seems to infect people more easily.
- It is common for viruses to mutate and variants are not necessarily more harmful. Experts also said that coronavirus variants are unlikely to prevent vaccines from working.
- The UK will also place millions more people under the most stringent “Tier 4” blocking measures starting on December 26th.
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A second variant of the coronavirus, possibly more infectious, originating in South Africa, has been found in the United Kingdom, announced British health secretary Matt Hancock.
Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, Hancock said the scientists had identified two cases of a new variant of the coronavirus that, he said, is even more transmissible than another variant that is spreading rapidly across England.
Both cases of the second variant were close contacts with people who had recently returned from South Africa, he said.
“This new variant is highly worrying because it is even more transmissible and appears to have undergone more mutations than the new variant that was discovered in the UK,” added Hancock.
It is common for viruses to mutate and variants are not necessarily more harmful or deadly. Experts previously told Insider that mutations in the first variant are unlikely to prevent vaccines from working against COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
Those in the UK who have visited the country in the past two weeks are expected to be quarantined for two weeks. The United Kingdom also imposed immediate restrictions on travel from South Africa.
Hancock also said that millions more people in England would be placed under stricter blocking measures after Boxing Day, due to the new variants.
People in most of southeastern England in Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Essex and most of Hampshire will be placed under the strictest “Tier 4” restrictions from December 26th.
The measures, which are already in place in London and parts of south-east England, mean that non-essential stores will be closed and people will be told to stay at home.
The UK registered 36,804 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the seven-day moving average to 222,199, an increase of 61.2% over the previous seven days.
Dr Jenny Harries, the UK’s deputy chief physician, said the number of coronavirus patients in hospital beds is approaching its peak in the spring.