Health Secretary Matt Hancock said at least 60 different local authorities have registered Covid infections caused by the new variant, the BBC reported on Monday.
He said the World Health Organization had been notified and British scientists had carried out detailed studies.
He said there was “nothing to suggest” that it was causing a worse disease or that vaccines would stop working.
He told MPs at the House of Commons that there had been a sharp, exponential rise in coronavirus infections over the past week in London, Kent, parts of Essex and Hertfordshire.
“We have currently identified over 1,000 cases of this variant predominantly in the south of England, although cases have been identified in almost 60 different local authorities.
“We don’t know how this is due to the new variant, but whatever the cause, we need to act quickly and decisively, which is sadly essential to control this deadly disease during the vaccine launch.”
The Chief Medical Officer of England, Prof. Chris Whitty, said current coronavirus swab tests would detect the new variant, which has been found predominantly in Kent and the surrounding areas in recent weeks.
The changes or mutations affect the virus’ spike protein – the part that helps it infect cells, and the target Covid vaccines are designed to do this.
It is too early to know exactly how this will affect the behavior of the virus.
Professor Alan McNally, an expert at the University of Birmingham, told the BBC, “Let’s not be hysterical. That doesn’t mean it’s more communicable or more contagious or dangerous.
“It’s something to watch out for.
“A great effort is being made to characterize the variant and understand how it came about. It is important to have a calm and rational perspective on the strain as this is a normal virus development and we expect new variants to come over time come and go and show up. “
Dr. Jeremy Farrar, director of Wellcome, said it could be serious. “Surveillance and research must continue and we must take the necessary steps to stay one step ahead of the virus.”
There is one simple rule to understanding all “new strains” or “new variants”: ask if the behavior of the virus has changed.
This is vital as viruses are constantly mutating. It is exactly what they do. And so far we’ve got the “fear” but not the “answer”.
Matt Hancock said the new variant of the coronavirus could be linked to the faster spread in south east England.
This is not the same as saying it “causes” the Ascension, and Hancock did not say that this virus evolved to spread more easily from person to person.
New strains may be more common for reasons unrelated to the virus.
One explanation for the emergence of the “Spanish variety” in summer was tourism.
So right now there are scary headlines all over the place, but still no scientific details to know how important this is.