An “extremely worrying” new variant of the coronavirus has been discovered in the UK that is suspected of causing an increase in cases in South Africa, Matt Hancock said

Public Health England surveillance on Tuesday identified two people who contracted the virus after coming into contact with various travelers from South Africa, one case in London, the other in the North West

The Minister of Health informed the press conference on Downing Street on Wednesday that the arrival of the new variant would lead to new quarantine rules for the youngest visitors from South Africa

“This new variant is very worrying as it is even more transmissible and appears to have mutated further than the new variant discovered in the UK,” said Hancock

It puts pressure on ministers who are already struggling to contain another highly communicable form of the virus, first spotted in Kent in late September.Coronavirus cases have soared in London, the South East and the East, where the Variant now makes up most of the infections

Ravi Gupta, a professor of clinical microbiology at Cambridge University who has called for the vaccination program to be accelerated and targeted at hotspots to curb the more communicable variant, said the discovery of the South African variant adds urgency to the situation

“This is really shocking news,” he said, “We need to step up vaccinations and think about where to put them”

Although the British and South African variants are different, they share at least one mutation called N501Y, which may make the virus more transmissible

Hancock said the two people who tested positive for the South African variant are now in quarantine, adding that other travelers out of the country and their contacts must take similar precautions

“Anyone in the UK who has been to South Africa in the past fourteen days and anyone who is in close contact with someone who has been in South Africa in the past fourteen days must be quarantined immediately,” he said ” You must restrict all contact with other people ”

The measures are temporary while the new variant is being investigated in the PHE laboratory in Porton Down. The laboratory is already working on the investigation of the British variant B117

The British variant became known when PHE analysis showed a new form of the multi-mutant virus spread rapidly in Kent and other regions during the November lockdown, while older variants of the coronavirus were in decline

The South African variant emerged after the first wave of infections in Nelson Mandela Bay on the coast of the Eastern Cape Province. Within a few weeks, it becomes the dominant coronavirus in both the Eastern and Western Cape

Dr Richard Lessells, an infectious disease specialist who studied the South African variant at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, said there was too little evidence so far to know whether it is more transmissible than the UK’s “We have good evidence of this that it is more transferable than the variants previously in circulation, but it is difficult for us to quantify precisely, “he said

Stuart Neil, Professor of Virology at King’s College London, said that while little was known about the new variants, it was important to take precautions

“We’re still waiting for final proof that the mutations in these variants contain something that actually gives them an intrinsic transmission advantage,” he said. “But I think we just have to be careful and pretend they have new variants improved transmission properties

“Ultimately, we’re a small country Anyone who gets into Tier 4 will be inevitable The new UK variant is available across the country … and of course if it’s more transferable it will take control”

Dr Stephen Griffin, Associate Professor at Leeds University Medical School, said: “Obviously, variants with increased transmission potential are a major concern now and in the future The beginning of the cases in this terrible situation

“It is good that action is now being taken to curb the spread of the new variant, but this must not be used as a distraction from poor management of the epidemic since the end of the first lockdown. The cost of failing to suppress infection.” and doing effective summer testing and tracing is now counted in both human life and economy ”

Dr Susan Hopkins, Senior Medical Advisor to Covid-19 for PHE and NHS tests and traces, said, “We are investigating this new variant of SARS-CoV-2 that originated in South Africa. Viruses often develop and this is Not uncommon We are primarily working to understand the potential risk of this variant.It is important to say that there is currently no evidence that this variant causes a more severe illness or that the regulated vaccine would not protect against it

“The best way to stop infection is to stick to the rules – cut down on your contacts, wash our hands, wear face-covering, keep your distance from others, and ventilate indoors”

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Matt Hancock, South Africa, South African coronavirus

World News – UK – The South African variant of Covid-19 has reached the UK, says Matt Hancock