The Health Secretary made his comments during a coronavirus press briefing yesterday. It comes amid efforts to control another mutated strain of Covid-19 that is already thought to be spreading around Britain, prompting international flight bans from the UK.
Regarding the UK’s known South Africa strain cases, Mr Hancock said: “As part of our surveillance, and thanks to the impressive genomic capability of the South Africans, we have detected 2 cases of another new variant of coronavirus here in the UK.
“This new variant is highly concerning, because it is yet more transmissible and it appeared to have mutated further than the new variant that has been discovered here.”
The Health Secretary thanked the South African Government “for the rigour of their science”.
However, he said there would be “immediate restrictions on travel” to the UK from South Africa.
As such, from 9am this morning people arriving in England who has been in or passed through South Africa within the last ten days will not be allowed entry.
This does not apply to UK nationals, visa holders or permanent residents, but they must all self-isolate for 10 days on arrival along with their household.
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Scientists in South Africa believe the nation’s variant of Covid-19 is ‘likely’ to be more transmissible and could be tougher on young people.
According to The Guardian, the strain may even be ‘slightly’ more vaccine-resistant.
The new variant is known as 501Y.V2. Researchers say one mutation – labelled N501Y – may be behind strain’s ability to spread more quickly than previous versions.
It shares the same mutation with the new strain of Covid-19 found in the UK which is also thought to spread faster.
It comes after the UK recorded a new record for daily infections yesterday at 39,237.
Over the past seven days, the country recorded 236,275 new cases – a rise of 89,816 or 61.3 percent from the seven days prior.
In addition, there were 744 deaths reported within 28 days of a positive test – the highest that figure has been since late April.
Mr Hancock said the UK is continuing to expand its community testing programmes with rapid turnaround tests following a trial in Liverpool.
He added the Government was also aiming to ensure care home workers would be getting two rapid tests every week on top of their one weekly PCR test.
Meanwhile, the University of Oxford, alongside partners AstraZeneca, have submitted data for its Covid-19 vaccine to UK medicine regulation body MHRA.