Experts have said it is premature to worry about a new variant of coronavirus (Getty)
Experts have said it is premature to worry about a new variant of Covid-19 or make any claims about the potential impacts of the virus mutation.
Their comments come after Health Secretary Matt Hancock said a new variant may be linked to the faster spread of coronavirus in the South of England.
He stressed there is no evidence to suggest the new strain is more likely to cause serious disease, and it is highly unlikely the mutation would fail to respond to a Covid-19 vaccine.
At a Downing Street press conference on Monday afternoon, England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said there was no evidence the strain causes worse or different symptoms
‘There are many variants. It just happens that this one has quite a few more mutations than some of the other variants, so that’s the reason why we’ve taken it particularly seriously,’ he said.
‘But there’s nothing to suggest that the symptoms are different, that the testing is different, or that the clinical outcome is different for this variant.’
Prof Whitty said mutations were to be expected and could require regular vaccinations to stay on top of.
Dr Zania Stamataki, Viral Immunologist, University of Birmingham, also tried to allay fears.
He added: ‘This virus doesn’t mutate as fast as influenza and, although we need to keep it under surveillance, it will not be a major undertaking to update the new vaccines when necessary in the future.
‘This year has seen significant advances take place, to build the infrastructure for us to keep up with this coronavirus.’
Hancock said the new strand of the virus, first observed in Kent, is being assessed by Government scientists at its Porton Down research laboratory.
They will be growing cultures of the strain in laboratories to see how it responds, to see if it produces the same antibody response to the existing strain, to see how the vaccine might impact it and to get a full picture of what it means.
However, it may take up to two weeks to thoroughly investigate.
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