This has led to a surge in cases and hospitalisations across London, the south and the southeast, with the government forced to introduce a new series of restrictions that will attempt to halt the spread of Covid-19.
So, what do we know about the new strain?
This version of the virus spreads far more easily between people as a result of a series of mutations that have been identified in the pathogen’s genetic coding. It is not, however, believed to cause more severe Covid disease or higher rates of mortality.
Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said analysis showed that the variant contains 23 different genetic changes, many associated with the so-called ‘spike’ protein – the part of the virus which is responsible for binding to human cells.
This is significant because the vast majority of vaccines in development target the spike receptor. If it changes beyond recognition, the jabs will be unable to induce the necessary immune response within people.
Does this mean the vaccine will be ineffective?
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