Another mutated strain of COVID-19 has been discovered in the United Kingdom, even as countries around the world intensified efforts to prevent transmission of an earlier mutated strain of the virus from the island nation. British Health Secretary Matt Hancock made the development public on Wednesday, adding that this new variant of coronavirus possibly originated in South Africa.
While the first mutant was claimed by many to be about 70 per cent more infectious than SARS-CoV-2, Hancock reportedly informed that the new strain identified today is even more transmissible than the first one.
Akin to the situation in the UK, the appearance of the new variant led to a spike in infections across South Africa as well, with many experts warning about a possible, much larger second wave.
"Thanks to the impressive genomic capability of the South Africans, we've detected two cases of another new variant of coronavirus here in the UK," Hancock said during a media briefing in London today. "Both are contacts of cases who have travelled from South Africa over the past few weeks," he was quoted by Reuters as saying.
While making the Tier 4 lockdown announcement at 10 Downing Street, Hancock announced that "anyone who has been in South Africa during the last fortnight or anyone who were in close contact with anyone in South Africa must be quarantined immediately," reports said. He also urged all arrivals from South Africa in the past two weeks to isolate themselves, while informing that the UK will also be issuing travel restrictions for South Africa.
"This new variant is highly concerning because it is yet more transmissible and it appears to have mutated further than the new variant that has been discovered in the UK," added Hancock, highlighting the increasing uncertainty in ascertaining the spread of the two mutant viruses.
As the UK registered 36,804 positive cases on Wednesday - its highest ever for this pandemic - the ministers held talks wherein decisions regarding stringent lockdown measures were deliberated upon.
Meanwhile, analysis of the new mutation and its extent of spread in the UK by scientific experts continued at Porton Down, the country's specialist laboratory in south-west England.
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