This new variant is of concern because it is more transmissible and has mutated further than the new variant discovered in the UK, authorities said.
In the UK, two cases of another new variant of the South African-linked coronavirus have been identified, Health Minister Matt Hancock announced in London on Wednesday. Like the previously identified British variant, the new variant of the novel coronavirus is leading to a massive resurgence of the disease in South Africa. Experts warn the country is likely to face a much larger second wave.
“Both (cases of the new variant) are contacts from cases that have traveled from South Africa in the past few weeks,” said Hancock at a briefing from 10 Downing Street. “This new variant is very worrying because it is even more transferable and further appears to be mutated than the new variant discovered in the UK, “he said.
The minister confirmed immediate travel restrictions from South Africa and the urgent government message that anyone who has been in South Africa in the past 14 days or has been in contact with anyone associated with the country should be immediately quarantined. The analysis of the new mutation and its trajectory in the UK is currently being analyzed by scientific experts at Porton Down, the country’s specialized laboratory in south-west England.
As a result, even more parts of the UK will face strict lockdowns after ministers held talks earlier Wednesday after the UK registered 36,804 positive coronavirus cases, the highest daily number of infections ever recorded during the pandemic. Millions more in the east and south-east of England will be placed on the highest level 4 alert from December 26th, which will be celebrated as Boxing Day the day after Christmas, as the new British variant of the coronavirus continues to have high portability.
The Minister also announced that the vaccine manufactured by AstraZeneca has submitted its full package of data to Oxford University for regulatory approval, even as the rollout of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine continues.
“I know how hard 2020 was for everyone. But we must not give up, now we know that we can control this virus. We know that we can get through this together. I know from the bottom of my heart that a brighter sky ahead of us lies.” ” he said.
The briefing comes when the new variant, identified last week in the UK and named VUI-202012/01 and having much higher portability, resulted in several countries including India cutting off transport links with the UK in order to try to curb its spread outside the UK.
Also read: India suspends flights to and from the UK due to the spread of the mutated coronavirus
The backlog of trucks that was built up on the British border with France has gradually dissolved after an agreement.
France agreed to lift its travel ban to the UK on condition of a negative coronavirus test. However, there have been reports of brawls on the UK-France border, as truckers have days before the nearly 1,500 trucks can drive towards their destinations.
During an annual Christmas and New Years holiday period in the UK, millions in the country had their plans to meet friends and family thwarted after Prime Minister Boris Johnson abandoned a planned five-day “Christmas bubble” after scientists confirmed the new one COVID-19 variant spread faster.
According to the revised rules, only people living in grades one to three are allowed to socialize in a bubble of three households on December 25th on Christmas Day. Those in Tier 4 areas are only allowed to celebrate Christmas with members of their own household and the support bubble. You are not allowed to travel to other planes to see family and friends.
Also read: New coronavirus mutation not seen in India so far: Ministry of Health
The opposition Labor Party has accused Johnson of “always standing behind the COVID-19 curve” and urged him to move forward quickly.
“If the scientific advice has stricter restrictions, don’t sit on it for weeks like last time, don’t tremble, don’t hesitate, it will be catastrophic, take the measures now needed to save lives.” said Labour’s shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth.
However, union leader Sir Keir Starmer has given Johnson a letter that his party will support any government action to tighten restrictions if recommended by academics.