The Government is set to announce a string of tighter policy measures later today to slow the spread of the new Covid variant formally designated “Omicron”. It follows the news that two cases of the variant have been detected in the UK – one in Chelmsford and the other in Nottingham. The new variant was first reported in South Africa. How worried should we be?
Speaking on the BBC Breakfast show, professor Clare Bryant of the University of Cambridge singled out two reasons why the new variant is a grave cause for concern.
“The real concern about this strain is that it is carrying a lot of mutations.There are a lot of mutations in the spike protein,” she warned.
The virus latches on to the spike protein to gain entry into the cells.
Prof Bryant continued: “Many more [mutations] than we have seen before and of course all our vaccines are made against that spike protein.”
This raises the prospect of the new variant outsmarting the current crop of vaccines.
“We also think the strain is highly transmissible so both these problems are the reason the Government is being particularly cautious,” added prof Bryant.
UK cases of new variant – what we know so far
After overnight genome sequencing, yesterday the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) confirmed that two cases of COVID-19 with mutations consistent with the new variant have been identified in the UK.
The individuals that have tested positive, and all members of their households, are being re-tested and told to self-isolate while further testing and contact tracing is underway.
One case has been located in Chelmsford and the other in Nottingham. The two cases are linked and there is a link to travel to Southern Africa.
UKHSA is carrying out targeted testing at locations where the positive cases were likely to have been infectious.
In response to the developing situation, the UK is taking decisive action to protect public health.
Confirmed cases and contacts are being followed up and requested to isolate and get tested as necessary.
Source: | This article first appeared on Express.co.uk