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New Covid-19 Variant Is Of "Huge International Concern", Sajid Javid Warns

2 min read

Sajid Javid has warned that the new Covid-19 variant B.1.1.529 is of “huge international concern”.

In a statement to the Commons on Friday, the Health Secretary said that "early indications show this variant may be more transmissible than the Delta variant".

So far there have been no detected cases of the new Covid-19 form in the UK, but the situation has been described by Javid as "fast moving".

“We are concerned that this new variant may pose substantial risk to public health,” he continued. 

“The variant has an unusually large number of mutations.

“Early indications show this variant may be more transmissible than the Delta variant, and current vaccines may be less effective against it.

"It may also impact the effectiveness of one of our major treatments, Ronapreve.

“We’re also worried about the rise of cases in Southern Africa, especially as these countries should have significant natural immunity.”

In response to concerns over the new virus, the government has placed South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia on the UK’s red travel list.

This means that passengers arriving from any of these countries between midday today and 4am on Saturday will be required to quarantine at home for 10 days.

From Sunday, travellers arriving from the six countries will have to quarantine in a government-approved hotel facility for 10 days.

Direct flights to the African states have also been banned until government hotel quarantine facilities are up and running.

In a statement today, England's Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty described B.1.1.529 as "relatively localised" but added that "it has spread to some other countries in very small numbers". 

"The sensible thing at this stage is to be precautionary, and then, if things look good, ease back," Whitty said. 

"There's an awful lot we don't know and I think it's probably not terribly helpful to speculate... we really can't tell."

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