England's chief medical officer confirms rapid spread of new COVID-19 strain

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Representative Image
Representative Image

London [UK], December 19 (ANI/Sputnik): Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty on Saturday called on the nation to remain vigilant as a recently discovered variant of coronavirus was rapidly spreading.

On Monday, UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock announced the discovery of the new strain of the disease, which was reported in roughly 1,000 individuals in southern England.

"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," Whitty said in a statement published by the UK government website.

The chief medical officer added that the World Health Organisation (WHO) had already been alerted.

"There is no current evidence to suggest the new strain causes a higher mortality rate or that it affects vaccines and treatments although urgent work is underway to confirm this. Given this latest development it is now more vital than ever that the public continue to take action in their area to reduce transmission," Whitty noted.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday that he did not rule out another lockdown in England after Christmas as the rates of COVID-19 infections in the country continue their upward trend.

Speaking about new coronavirus strains at the Friday briefing, the WHO's technical lead on COVID-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, urged countries to take steps to control the spread of the disease at this present time to prevent the virus from having further opportunities to mutate following the recent discoveries of new variants in Denmark, the UK, and South Africa. (ANI/Sputnik)