Mr Hancock said: “There have been developments of a new strain of the virus. “The fight against the virus is a global effort and we are constantly being vigilant and looking across the world and as part of our surveillance and the impressive genomic ability of the South African government we have detected two cases of another new variant of coronavirus here in the UK.
“Both are contacts of cases who have travelled from South Africa over the past few weeks.
“The Chief Scientific Advisor and Chief Medical Officer and others have met their South African counterparts and are incredibly grateful to the South African government for the rigour of their work and their openness and transparency with which they have rightly acted as we did when we discovered the new variant here.
“This new variant is overly concerning because it is yet more transmissible and appears to have mutated further than the new variant that has been discovered in the UK.
“We have taken the following action: first we are quarantining cases and close contact of cases found here in the UK.
“Second we are putting immediate restrictions on travel from South Africa, and finally and most importantly anyone from the UK who has been to South Africa in the past fortnight and anyone who is a close contact of someone from South Africa must quarantine immediately.”
Symptoms to spot include:
- Continuous cough
- Chest pains, fever
- Loss of taste and smell
- Muscle Pain
- Skin rash
Dr Zweli Mkhize said on Twitter: “We have convened this public briefing today to announce that a variant of the SARS-COV-2 Virus- currently termed 501.V2 Variant has been identified by our genomics scientists here in South Africa.
“This genomics team, led by the Kwazulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform, or KRISP, has sequenced hundreds of samples from across the country since the beginning of the pandemic in March.
“Clinicians have been providing anecdotal evidence of a shift in the clinical epidemiological picture- in particular noting that they are seeing a larger proportion of younger patients with no co-morbidities presenting with critical illness.”