The novel coronavirus Photograph:( Reuters )
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was already in a huddle with his senior ministers to discuss what urgent actions could be taken
In an alarming development, England's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said on Saturday that a new strain of coronavirus is spreading more quickly and urgent work was underway to confirm that it doesn't cause higher mortality rate.
“As announced on Monday, the UK has identified a new variant of Covid-19 through Public Health England’s genomic surveillance,” Whitty said in a statement.
“As a result of the rapid spread of the new variant, preliminary modelling data and rapidly rising incidence rates in the South East, the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) now consider that the new strain can spread more quickly,” he said
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was already in a huddle with his senior ministers to discuss what urgent actions could be taken.
Johnson will hold a news conference with Whitty and the government's chief scientific adviser at about 1600 GMT amid suggestions that he will announce new urgent measures to try to address the rise in cases caused by the variant COVID strain.
Britain reported 28,507 new COVID-19 cases on Friday and 489 deaths, with the reproduction "R" number estimated to be between 1.1 and 1.2, meaning the number of cases is rapidly increasing.
Johnson said on Friday he hoped England would not need to go into a third lockdown after Christmas and has so far resisted calls to change plans to ease restrictions for five days over the festive period, allowing three separate households to meet indoors.
(With Reuters inputs)