Britain’s Secretary of Health, Matt Hancock, announced on Wednesday that another variation of the new coronavirus had been detected in two people who were contacts of cases stemming from recent trips to South Africa.
Hancock announced the discovery on Wednesday, while also listing more areas in England that would fall under Level 4 restrictions.
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“It is clear that the fight against the virus is a global effort and we are constantly vigilant and looking around the world as part of our surveillance,” he said during a news conference. “And thanks to the impressive genomic capacity of South Africans, we have detected two cases of another new variant of the coronavirus here in the United Kingdom. Both are contacts of cases that traveled from South Africa last week.”
Hancock said the new variant is “highly worrying” because “it is even more transmissible and appears to have undergone greater mutations than the new variant discovered in the UK”
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As a result, while researchers continue to study the potential implications of the variant, the UK has ordered new cases and close contacts of cases detected in the UK to be quarantined and has placed immediate restrictions on South Africa travel.
“Anyone in the UK who has been in South Africa for the past fifteen days, and anyone who is a close contact with someone who has been in South Africa for the past fifteen days should be quarantined immediately,” he said, adding that they must restrict all contact “with anyone, whatever.”
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“We all know that 2020 was a difficult year and it is ending in this festive period, which will be very different – after all the efforts that we have made to control this virus, and in many parts of the country this virus is under control – as well as we have a layered system capable of controlling this virus, we have discovered a new, more contagious virus variant that is spreading at a dangerous rate, “he said.
Pfizer expressed confidence in its vaccine’s ability to protect against the first variant discovered in the UK, citing the “flexibility” of mRNA. It was not immediately clear how the second variant differed from the first and whether it would also be susceptible to the vaccine.