A new coronavirus strain has gripped England that spreads faster and thus requires greater public vigilance, confirmed the country's chief medical officer Chris Whitty on Saturday.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has been made aware of the latest findings, said Whitty.
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said scientists had identified a "new variant" in the south of England, which is making infections spread faster. He said at least 60 different local authorities had recorded Covid infections caused by the new variant.
He also warned that the new mutant coronavirus strain is "out of control" and suggested parts of England will be stuck in the new Tier 4 restrictions until a vaccine is rolled out.
"Cases have absolutely rocketed, so we've got a long way to go," Hancock told as per a Bloomberg report. "I think it will be very difficult to keep it under control until the vaccine has rolled out." People in the new Tier 4 areas "should behave as though they have it," he added.
Whitty said: "As a result of the rapid spread of the new variant, preliminary modelling data and rapidly rising incidence rates in the South East (an expert body advising the government) now consider that the new strain can spread more quickly."
There is no current evidence to suggest the new strain causes a higher mortality rate or it affects vaccines and treatments, however, urgent work is underway to confirm this, said Whitty.
Whitty warned that the new evidence made it "more vital than ever" that the public did all they could to reduce transmission.
People in Wales and Northern Ireland are set to go into new lockdowns after Christmas. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has not ruled out the possibility of a new lockdown in the country. He said, "We're hoping very much that we will be able to avoid anything like that."
"But the reality is that the rates of infection have increased very much in the last few weeks."
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