What is now been dubbed as #Covid20 on social media Matt Hancock announces a New strain of covid in the UK.
Experts have insisted that mutations are to be expected and not necessarily feared after the UK government announced that a new strain of coronavirus had been identified in England.
The UK has notified the World Health Organisation over the latest variant, which appears to be responsible for the faster spread of the virus throughout the southeast of the country, Matt Hancock said.
More than 1,000 infections related to this specific mutation have been reported across nearly 60 different local authorities in England, though the government insists the new strain does not cause a more serious disease and is “unlikely” to impact the nationwide rollout of vaccines.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that the “new variant” had been identified by scientists and could be associated with a faster spread of coronavirus.
“Initial analysis suggests this variant is growing faster than the existing variants,” he told parliament on Monday.
“We’ve currently identified over a thousand cases with this variant, predominantly in the south of England, although cases have been identified in over 60 different local authority areas, and numbers are increasing rapidly.
“Similar variants have been identified in other countries over the last few months.”
Hancock said the UK had notified the World Health Organisation about the new variant.
He said all 32 boroughs of Greater London and the City of London, along with parts of Essex and Hertfordshire, will move into the highest tier of Covid-19 restrictions from 00:01 on Wednesday.
The Cabinet minister, in an update to MPs, said initial analysis of the new strain shows it is “growing faster than the existing variants”, but is no more deadly.
And there is no evidence to suggest the new variant impacts the effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines.
The health secretary told MPs: “I must stress at this point that there is currently nothing to suggest that this variant is more likely to cause serious disease.
London and parts of the South East will move into Tier 3 of coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday, after “very sharp, exponential rises” of Covid-19 in the past week, the health secretary has said.
“And the latest clinical advice is that it’s highly unlikely that this mutation would fail to respond to a vaccine, but it shows we’ve got to be vigilant and follow the rules and everyone needs to take personal responsibility not to spread this virus.”
He said over 1,000 cases of the new strain had been identified, predominantly in the South of England but also in nearly 60 different local authority areas.
“And numbers are increasing rapidly,” he added.
It is being assessed at Porton Down and its potential impact will be known in the “coming days and weeks”.
On the move to tighten restrictions in much of south England, Mr Hancock said the decision was taken early, before the planned review date on Wednesday due to a significant rise in cases.
It is understood the restrictions will be reviewed on December 23.
The Department for Health said the situation in London, parts of Essex and South Hertfordshire has “deteriorated” since the end of England’s national lockdown.
Mr Hancock told MPs that cases are doubling every seven days in the capital.
The rule change will see more than 10 million people placed into the highest tier of coronavirus restrictions.
It comes after London MPs were told by health officials earlier that the capital is moving towards a phase of “exponential growth” in its number of coronavirus cases.
It follows warnings from London Mayor Sadiq Khan that Tier 3 restrictions – which will involve the closure of pubs and restaurants except for takeaway and delivery services – would have a “catastrophic” economic impact.
On Thursday, it was revealed London has the highest rates of coronavirus in England, with the weekly case rate at 225 per 100,000.The borough of Havering has the highest coronavirus rate in London, at 471 per 100,000.In South Essex, case rates are greater than 200 per 100,000 in 10 out of 14 local authorities and are increasing across the region, with cases in Basildon reaching 563 per 100,000.
In South Hertfordshire case rates are greater than 150 per 100,000 in 4 out of the 5 local authorities bordering London and have increased by 10% or more over the last 7 days.
Broxbourne’s cases have reached 358 per 100,000.