Following are details of a new coronavirus variant that has been identified in the United Kingdom, given at a news conference on Saturday by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Patrick Vallance, Britain’s chief scientific adviser, and Chris Whitty, the chief medical adviser.
The new variant is thought to have first occurred in mid-September in London or Kent; in the south-east of England.
British analysis suggests it may be up to 70 per cent more transmissible than the old variant; which could increase the reproduction “R” rate by 0.4. There is no evidence to suggest it is more lethal or causes more severe illness.
There is no evidence suggesting vaccines will be any less effective against the new variant. The new variant contains 23 different changes, many of them associated with alterations in a protein made by the virus.
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Vallance said this was an unusually large number of changes. It has variants in areas of the virus that are known to be associated with how the virus binds to cells and enters cells.
The variant has spread quickly in London, the south-east and east of England, becoming the dominant form of the virus in these areas.In London, 62 per cent of cases were due to the new variant in the week of Dec 9. That compared to 28 per cent three weeks earlier.
In London, the overall infection rate doubled in the last week. In areas where the new variant was dominant, hospital admission rates were rising quickly and previously agreed social restrictions were no longer strong enough.
Vallance said he thought the new variant may be in other countries as well but might have started in Britain. The UK submitted its findings to the World Health Organisation on Friday night.
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