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Matt Hancock has confirmed that another ‘more transmissible’ strain of the coronavirus has been identified in the UK.
The health secretary confirmed that a new variant of the virus has been found in two cases of people who have travelled to the UK from South Africa.
He described the mutation as ‘highly concerning’ and announced that anyone who has travelled from South Africa in the last two weeks must quarantine, as well as those they have been in contact with since entering the country.
Hancock added that the measures are temporary until more investigating can be done into the newest strain.
‘We are incredibly grateful to the South African government for their science. This virus is yet more transmissible and appears to have mutated further than the new virus,’ Hancock said.
He went on to say reiterate that 2020 has been an incredibly difficult time and is ‘ending in this festive period which is going to be very different’.
‘Just as we have got a tiered system in place, we have discovered a new more contagious virus, a variant which is spreading at a dangerous rate,’ he added.
During the same press conference, Hancock announced that more areas in England would be moved into tier 4 from Boxing Day, including Essex, Norfolk, Sussex, Surrey, Oxfordshire and Hampshire.
Meanwhile, Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Swindon, Isle of Wight, New Forest, Northamptonshire, Cheshire and Warrington will move into tier 3, and Cornwall and Herefordshire will be moved into tier 2.
The number of coronavirus cases recorded in the UK has gone up by 57% over the last week, with hospital admissions rising to their highest rate since the first peak in April.
Hancock did, however, go on to say that community testing of the Oxford vaccine would be expanded further, with a total of 116 local areas signing up.
The vaccine has already submitted all of its data package to MHRA for approval, with the hopes of it getting approved in the not-too-distant future.
‘This vaccine programme is going to be our way through this,’ he explained.
The health secretary reiterated that while the beginning of the new year ‘will be tough, we mustn’t give up now’.
‘We’re not going to give up now, especially after so much sacrifice,’ he added.
A full report into the vaccination programme so far is expected to be published tomorrow.
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