Professor Chris Whitty gives update on new variant of coronavirus
Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, said the UK has informed the World Health Organisation that the new variant coronavirus can spread more rapidly.
“As announced on Monday, the UK has identified a new variant of Covid-19 through Public Health England’s genomic surveillance,” he said in a statement.
“As a result of the rapid spread of the new variant, preliminary modelling data and rapidly rising incidence rates in the South East, the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) now consider that the new strain can spread more quickly.
“We have alerted the World Health Organisation and are continuing to analyse the available data to improve our understanding.
“There is no current evidence to suggest the new strain causes a higher mortality rate or that it affects vaccines and treatments, although urgent work is under way to confirm this.
“Given this latest development, it is now more vital than ever that the public continue to take action in their area to reduce transmission.”
The Prime Minister is set to address the nation at 4pm and is expected to address the new strain.
The move follows calls for him to tighten restrictions amid rumours that a ‘Tier 4’ Stay at Home rule is set to be introduced in the south of England.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth called on Boris Johnson to set out how he intends to stem the spread of coronavirus earlier today.
He said: “It has been apparent for some days that the virus is again out of control in parts of the country. The Government’s tiered system has failed to stem its spread,” he said in a statement.
“This is an incredibly serious moment and people are worried. The Prime Minister has refused to take action to limit the virus’ spread over Christmas. All he has offered so far is confusion and indecision.
“He must now address the nation to explain what action he will be taking.”