Covid: Sajid Javid raises alarm bells over ‘worst ever’ mutant variant – ‘Unprecedented’ | UK | News

On Thursday, the health secretary warned the variant, first identified in Botswana could be the “worst ever” strain of the virus. An exponential rise in the cases in South Africa has led to a ban on the flights from South Africa and five other countries.

Mr Javid said: “The early indication we have of this variant is it may be more transmissible than the Delta variant and the vaccines that we currently have may be less effective against it.

“Now to be clear, we have not detected any of this new variant in the UK at this point in time. But we’ve always been clear that we will take action to protect the progress that we have made.

“So what we will be doing is from midday tomorrow we will be suspending all flights from six, southern African countries and we will add in those countries to the travel red list.

“Those countries are South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Botswana. We will be requiring anyone that arrives from those countries from 4am on Sunday to quarantine in hotels.

“If anyone arrives before then they should self-isolate at home and take a PCR test on day two and day eight. If anyone has arrived from any of those countries over the last 10 days, we would ask them to take PCR tests.”

The variant, which might be named as “Nu” by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has over 30 mutations – around twice as many as the Delta variant, can make the vaccines 40 percent less effective.

Not a single case of the variant has been detected in the UK so far, however, everyone who has returned from South Africa in the past 10 days will be contacted.

At the moment, around 500 and 700 people are travelling to the UK from South Africa each day, but it is expected this figure could increase as the festive period begins.

READ MORE: Covid Christmas warning as new figures show cases skyrocketing

SAGE Professor Neil Ferguson, said: “The B.1.1.529 variant has an unprecedented number of mutations in the spike protein gene, the protein which is the target of most vaccines.

“There is therefore a concern that this variant may have a greater potential to escape prior immunity than previous variants.

“It is also concerning that this variant appears to be driving a rapid increase in case numbers in South Africa. The Government’s move to restrict travel with South Africa is therefore prudent.

“However, we do not yet have reliable estimates of the extent to which B.1.1.529 might be either more transmissible or more resistant to vaccines, so it is too early to be able to provide an evidence-based assessment of the risk it poses.”

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