New coronavirus strain identified in the UK

pharmafile | December 15, 2020 | News story | Manufacturing and Production, Research and Development COVID-19, UK, coronavirus, vaccines 

A new variant of coronavirus has been identified in the UK, and is growing faster in some parts of England, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.

Hancock told MPs yesterday that over 1,000 cases of the new variant – named VUI-202012/01 – has been found “predominantly in the South East”, but that nearly 60 local authorities across the country have reported cases.

The strain has also been found in Wales, the Welsh Government confirmed today. They have said there are at 10 confirmed and five probable cases in the country, with more expected to be identified.

The new variant is spreading faster than the existing coronavirus strain, and it is too early to know how the mutation will affect the behaviour of the virus, but the Health Secretary said there was “nothing to suggest” that it would cause worse symptoms. He added that “the latest clinical advice is that it’s highly unlikely this mutation would fail to respond to a vaccine”.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty later said that the new variant can still be detected by coronavirus tests, and reiterated that it is not “more dangerous” than existing strains. He added that the efficacy of the vaccine being affected by the new strain was possible, but unlikely.

Senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter, Dr Bharat Pankhania, told Sky News he is “very confident that we won’t have to refashion our vaccines”.

The news follows reports of coronavirus cases skyrocketing across London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire, with those areas set to enter the toughest COVID-19 restrictions from Wednesday. Hancock has suggested the new variant of the virus may be responsible for the recent rapid spread.

Darcy Jimenez

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