A new coronavirus variant detected in the United Kingdom can spread more quickly, prompting urgent work to establish whether it causes a higher mortality rate, England's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said on Saturday in a statement.
"As announced on Monday, the UK has identified a new variant of COVID-19 through Public Health England’s genomic surveillance. As a result of the rapid spread of the new variant, preliminary modelling data and rapidly rising incidence rates in the South East, the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) now consider that the new strain can spread more quickly", Whitty said.
Whitty noted that there is a lack of evidence at the present stage to suggest the new strain of virus can affect vaccine efficacy or lead to a higher mortality rate.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced on Monday that a new variant of COVID-19 had been identified in the south of England, and was responsible for roughly 1,000 cases.
The new strain - dubbed VUI - 202012/01 - causes the same symptoms as the regular coronavirus infection, such as cough, fever, and loss of taste and smell, according to NHS.
The emergence of the new coronavirus variation has raised concerns that the UK government could be forced to ramp up the restrictions in southeast England due to the highly contagious properties of the strain.