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New strain of Coronavirus found in the UK and South Africa

December 21, 2020: New strains of COVID-19 have been reported in the UK and South Africa. The new strains in the UK and South Africa are spreading faster.

“Over the last few days, thanks to our world-class genomic capability in the U.K., we have identified a new variant of coronavirus which may be associated with the fastest spread in the southeast of England,” said the UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock while addressing the House of Commons last week.

The new mutant strain now makes up almost half of new cases detected in the affected area. “Unfortunately the new strain was out of control. We have got to get it under control,” said UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Sunday.

The new mutation is spreading in the South East of England and has caused a spike in the number of cases. However, it is not clear if the mutations will make the virus more infectious. On December 19, the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new restrictions because of rapid increase in cases due to the new strain. 

Many European Union countries have tightened the restrictions on the UK after cases started to increase. On December 20, Belgium and the Netherlands suspended flights from the UK. On December 20, Italy detected mutated strain in a person who recently returned from the United Kingdom.

The scientists from COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) Consortium said in a statement, “There is currently no evidence that this variant (or any other studied to date) has any impact on disease severity, or that it will render vaccines less effective, although both questions require further studies performed at pace.  We will provide further updates as our investigations proceed.”

South Africa has also reported a new variant of coronavirus. The new variant is reportedly spreading faster than the previous one.

“We have convened this public briefing today to announce that a variant of the SARS-COV-2 Virus- currently termed 501.V2 Variant has been identified by our genomics scientists here in South Africa,” tweeted Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize on December 18.

The effectiveness of vaccines on new variants remains unclear as of now.