Health Minister Says South Africa COVID-19 Strain Could Be ‘More Transmissible’ Than UK Strain

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Matthew Brooks Contributor
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A new strain of coronavirus which originated in South Africa and is now circulating in the United Kingdom could be more infectious than the new strain discovered in the UK, according to the country’s health secretary.

UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock said that the arrival of this new variant is expected to lead to new quarantine restrictions on people that come to the United Kingdom from South Africa, according to The Guardian. (RELATED: New UK COVID-19 Strain Likely In The US, Says Fauci)

“This new variant is highly concerning because it is yet more transmissible and it appears to have mutated further than the new variant discovered in the UK,” Hancock said.

The new strain of the virus is causing policymakers to worry because the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines may not be effective against it, Wales Online reports.

Sir John Bell, a professor of medicine at Oxford University, told Times Radio that the changes between the two strains were “pretty substantial changes in the structure”.

“I would worry a lot about the South African strain,” he added.

Some scientists have suggested that it is still too early to determine whether the new South Africa strain is more transmissible than the UK strain.

We do have good evidence that it is more transmissible than the previously circulating variants, but it’s difficult for us to quantify precisely,” Dr. Richard Lessells, a specialist in infectious disease who has studied the South African strain, said according to The Guardian.

“We are still waiting for definitive proof that there’s something in the mutations that have arisen in these variants that are actually giving them an intrinsic transmission advantage,” said Stuart Neil, a virology professor at King’s College London, The Guardian reported.

The government announced Dec. 23 that visitors from South Africa would be barred from entering the United Kingdom. This ban would exclude cargo and non-passenger freight flights, as well as British and Irish nationals, permanent residents and visa holders, who would only need to isolate for 10 days, according to The Guardian.

“We are investigating this new variant of SARS-CoV-2 which originated in South Africa. Viruses often evolve and this is not unusual. We are carrying out work as a priority to understand the potential risk this variant may cause,” Susan Hopkins, the chief medical adviser on coronavirus to the UK National Health Service, said according to The Guardian.

“The best way to stop infection is to stick to the rules – reduce your contacts, wash our hands, wear a face covering, keep our distance from others and ventilate indoor spaces,” she added.