New Covid strain emerged in Kent and experts still don’t know if vaccine will stop spread

Matt Hancock reveals discovery of new coronavirus variant

Meanwhile Parliament has been told it is likely the new variant probably started in one person in Kent. Speaking during an evidence session of the Commons Science and Technology Committee on Wednesday morning, Professor Peter Horby, chairman of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said scientists were still exploring whether the new mutant coronavirus strain could sidestep immunity caused by vaccine or prior infection.

He said: “What we don’t know yet is if there’s any difference in the severity of disease, the age distribution of cases, or most importantly whether there is any immune escape.”

Prof Horby also said the strain likely started from one person in Kent, and could have been caused by “random errors” when the virus copies.

There were a number of possible reasons why the mutant strain of the virus appeared to be spreading faster than others, he added.

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He told the Commons Science and Technology Committee: “The underlying mechanism is not fully clear – it could be because the virus replicates faster, which means you get higher viral loads which means you are more infectious.

“It could be that it takes a shorter time between being exposed and being infectious – if that timeframe shortens you get quicker transmission.

“Or it could mean the duration of infectiousness is longer.”

(More to follow)

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