A ‘new, more contagious’ Covid variant linked to South Africa has been discovered

Two cases of another Covid-19 strain linked to South African have been identified in the UK, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.

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The news comes days after the government confirmed an initial new Covid variant, known as VUI-202012/01, that has caused a dramatic rise in cases in London and the South East of England.

Ban on South Africa travel

The Health Secretary said the latest variant was “spreading at a dangerous rate.”

He said, “Both are contacts of cases who have travelled from South Africa over the past few weeks.

Both cases and close contacts of the cases have been quarantined, and there are immediate restrictions on travel from South Africa.

The government is also telling those who have been in contact with anyone who has been in South African in the last 12 days that they must quarantine immediately.

New variant is ‘highly concerning’

“We are incredibly grateful to the South African government for the rigour of their science and the openness and the transparency with which they have rightly acted as we did when we discovered a new variant here,” Hancock said.

“This new variant is highly concerning because it is yet more transmissible and it appears to have mutated further than the new variant that has been discovered in the UK.”

South Africa has been struggling to contain a second wave of Covid-19 infections, warning the country of 56 million people that a new variant, referred to as 501.V2, carries a heavier viral load and appears to be more prevalent among the young.

Prof Salim Abdool Karim, the chairman of the government’s ministerial advisory committee (MAC), said, “It is still very early but at this stage, the preliminary data suggests the virus that is now dominating in the second wave is spreading faster than the first wave.”