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UK discovers second ‘more contagious’ variant of Covid-19 virus, travellers from South Africa under scanner

LONDON: Barely a week after discovering a new strain of coronavirus, the United Kingdom on Wednesday announced that it had found out a "new, more contagious" variant of the Covid-19 virus.

UK Health secretary Matt Hancock made the announcement during a media address and said that the new strain was detected in two cases in the UK and that all travellers from South Africa in the past two weeks must isolate immediately.

"We've discovered a new more contagious virus, a variant that is spreading at a dangerous rate. Today we're announcing further action within the tiering system," Hancock said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had last week declared that large parts of southern and eastern England would come under Tier 4 restrictions - the most stringent in the UK since the pandemic began - and stated that the new strain - N5017 - of the virus could be up to 70 per cent more transmissible that than the prevalent one.

UK's chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance said that there was an unusually high number of changes to this new strain's genetic material that might allow it to spread way faster than other variants.

According to Reuters, the coronavirus mutation first found in the UK has also been found in Israel.

And as per sources in the UK government, children are at a high risk of contracting the new mutated strains of the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, scientists and health officials in South Africa had last week announced the discovery of a new variant there - 501.V2 - found in about 90 per cent of samples tested in the country.

Researchers found that this new variant has key changes in that particular part of the virus that helps it attach to human body cells.

According to preliminary research, the new variant has been linked with higher viral load and a faster spread. However, so far it has not been associated to severe cases.



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