There are rising concerns over the new variant, but the government are urging people to get vaccinated (PA)
An expert from the Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said the latest strain of Covid-19 could already be in the UK.
Although there are no detected cases of the new variant, named B.1.1.529, scientists are worried that it could have already been brought over from South Africa, Botswana, Hong Kong and Israel.
Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser of the UKHSA, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, that it was “possible” the strain could already have reached the UK.
“Well, it’s always possible. We have no cases identified whatsoever yet, nothing in our genome sequencing… so overall, I think the situation is reassuring in-country, but of course, people are arriving every day.”
Dr Hopkins told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the new variant had around “30 different mutations that seem relevant – that’s double what we had in Delta (variant).
“If we look at those mutations, there’s mutations that increase infectivity, mutations that evade the immune response both from vaccines and from natural immunity, mutations that cause increased transmissibility.
“It’s a highly complex mutation, there’s also new ones that we have never seen before.”
Dr Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor to UK Health Security Agency, (PA/ BBC Pictures)
She said the variant was the “most worrying” seen by scientists but much was still unknown.
Addressing the House of Commons on Friday November 26, Sajid Javid said: “This is a fast-moving situation and there remains a high degree of uncertainty.”
To try to combat the variant entering the UK, the government updated its red list banning all flights from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe, effective midday on Friday November 26 until 4am Sunday November 28.
Anyone who has been in these countries and arrive in England between midday on Friday and 4am on Sunday will have to quarantine at home or other suitable accommodation.
Those who have been in the six countries within the last 10 days, must quarantine at home for 10 days and take NHS PCR tests on day two and day eight, even if they already have a lateral flow test booked.