Jeremy Vine: Dr Sarah says new Covid strain 'game changer'
Professor of outbreak medicine at the University of Liverpool, Calum Semple warned the new strain would “out compete all the other strains” due to its evolutionary advantage of being able to spread more quickly and easily. The newly discovered strain is being called VUI-202012/01 and is now present in all parts of the UK apart from Northern Ireland. But First Minister Arlene Foster sent a stark warning it was “probable” the virus had already arrived at Northern Ireland’s doorstep.
When asked whether the mutant strain would be the one to take over Covid around the world, Mr Semple explained: “I suspect it will, or strains like it will.
“Because the virus has the evolutionary advantage in transmitting more quickly, it will out-compete all the other strains, and so it will naturally do that.
“As immunity comes into the community more widely, then you will start to see more pressure on the virus and you’re more likely to see other escapes of other variations.”
It comes as six nations around the world have reported the new strain has been detected in their countries.
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The new Covid variant has been confirmed to be circulating in:
- The Netherlands
The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson revealed on Monday the British overseas territory of Gibraltar had identified one case of the strain so far.
While earlier on Monday, Italy’s Health Ministry said it had detected one case as well after a patient infected with the new virus flew in from the UK to Rome with his partner, who did not test positive for Covid.
Denmark has recorded the most with nine cases, while Belgium is understood to have four positive patients with the new strain.
Australian authorities confirmed there are two cases present in the country, and just one confirmed case in the Netherlands.
France and South Africa also believe they have cases of the new covid strain, but these are yet to be confirmed before the countries can be added to the list.
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French Health Minister Olivier Veran said it is “entirely possible” the new variant is going around France despite tests not picking it up.
South African officials say they have detected a strain which is very similar to the one found in the UK.
In terms of the UK, Scotland and Wales have both picked up cases of the new variant in the last few weeks.
Health officials have warned the new virus strain is predominantly spreading around south-east England and London, in which it’s believed to account for 60 percent of all new positive cases, which would explain the stringent Tier 4 measures introduced in the area on Friday.
Professor Semple added the emergence of the new Covid strain in the UK should come as no surprise to people.
He explained: “The flu vaccine typically contains three or four flavours of the influenza virus and we simply pick on a best-guess basis each season, and then people that make the vaccines scale up in a timely manner.”
Mr Semple said although the new strain was concerning to a number of Brits, the UK is seen as a world leader in understanding and identifying disease behaviours.
He concluded: “The fact is, we have identified it, we have brought it to national attention, we’ve got the attention of the politicians and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in very quick time.
“We do not yet have herd immunity despite those people that think herd immunity is going to be the salvation. We won’t have it until a very large number of the population have been vaccinated.”
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