18:51 GMT26 February 2021
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    Public Health England have detected samples of the Kent variant with mutations that may help it evade the immune system.

    The new mutation of the Covid-19 variant, called E484K, has been found in 11 samples examined by scientists.

    “The mutation of most concern, which we call E484K, has also occurred spontaneously in the new Kent strain in parts of the country too,” a professor of outbreak medicine Calum Semple said in an interview.

    The spike protein mutation E484K has been linked to South Africa and Brazil variants and is said to be more resistant to the vaccine than other forms of the virus. 

    ​In an attempt to identify cases of the South African Covid variant in the UK, the government has launched mass door-to-door testing in London, Kent and Hertfordshire and other areas in England. Brits will have to take tests even if they don’t have Covid-19 symptoms, as part of this new testing programme.

    UK Health Minister Matt Hancock said that the break of any chain transmission of the South Africa variant needs to be broken.

    "There's currently no evidence to suggest this variant is any more severe. But we need to come down on it hard, and we will,” Hancock said.

    According to Public Health England, a total of 105 cases of the South African variant have been identified since 22 December.

    On Tuesday, Hancock confirmed that “over half of those in their 70s have now had their first COVID vaccine. “

    “We're on track to meet our target of offering the top 4 priority groups a vaccine by mid-February. Thank you to all involved,” he wrote.  

    ​UK vaccination figures, up to and including 31 January 2021, show that 9,296,367 people have already received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and 494,209 have got the second dose as well.  

    Tags:
    vaccine, South Africa, COVID-19
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