new Covid variant has been discovered in the UK with similar worrying attributes to the Kent variant and should be targeted with surge testing, experts warn.
The earliest cases were reported in December and were found in Nigeria and the UK. 108 cases have now been detected across 11 countries in Africa, Europe, North America and the Middle East.
The E484K spike protein is thought to play a crucial role in getting the virus into the body.
Studies also indicate this mutation may be able to better escape the body’s immune response, rendering vaccines less effective.
Dr Simon Clarke, an associate professor of cellular microbiology at the University of Reading told The Guardian: “We don’t yet know how well this [new] variant will spread, but if it is successful it can be presumed that immunity from any vaccine or previous infection will be blunted.
“I think that until we know more about these variants, any variants which carry E484K should be subject to surge testing as it seems to confer resistance to immunity, however that is generated.”
His suggestion was backed by the World Health Organisation’s special envoy on Covid-19, Dr David Nabarro, who told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “The secret to getting life back to some degree of normality for most of us is going to be the availability of really reliable, super-quick tests.
“That will make movement so, so much easier.”
“I think that the certificates for vaccination are likely to be required more for international travel and other such activities where you’re actually going into a different jurisdiction.
“But for moving around (domestically) it will be rapid tests.”
How might the road map out of lockdown look?
Meanwhile, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi declined to say how low coronavirus infections must be in order to allow the lockdown to ease.
Asked what level cases must be brought down to, he told Sky News: “The Prime Minister is right to say that where we are today in terms of number of people in hospital, in terms of case numbers per day, it’s still far too high and we want to make sure we bring that right down.
“But I wouldn’t want to speculate on this until we see more data.”
Additional reporting by PA