BRITISH scientists have found a new strain of coronavirus which is up to 70 per cent more transmissible than the original virus.
Boris Johnson says it was behind a surge in Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations — and why strict Tier 4 rules were being imposed in the South East and East of England as well as London.
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Where has the new strain of Covid come from?
The new strain's scientific name is VUI 202012/01, with VUI standing for Variant Under Investigation.
Essentially, the mutant strain's origins are still being probed by Public Health England laboratories at Porton Down, Wiltshire.
With no concrete evidence so far explaining how and where it comes from, it can only be assumed to have emerged in England — because that was where most of the known cases were originally reported.
Scientists believe it mutated within a Covid patient's body.
But it was unknown if that person had travelled to the UK or lived there.
However, outside the UK, nine cases of the new strain have been reported in Denmark, as well as one case in the Netherlands and another in Australia, according to the Word Health Organisation (WHO).
The question is how and where did these patients catch the bug?
Another possibility is that it has come via a visitor from a country, where the mutated bug may be rife, but has so far not been detected?
Why is the new strain of Covid more contagious?
The new Covid strain is said to be around 70 per cent more infectious than its original form and has sparked rocketing case numbers across London and the South East.
The number of new UK infections on Sunday, December 20 — the date the Tier 4 lockdown came into force — was at an all-time high for recorded cases and was nearly double the 18,447 cases reported a week ago.
Why is the new strain spreading faster?
Porton Down scientist said the new strain includes a mutation in the spike protein that may make the virus more infectious.
As he announced the new Tier 4 measures, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "Without action the evidence suggests that infections would soar, hospitals would become overwhelmed and many thousands more would lose their lives.
"Yes Christmas this year will be different, very different.
"We're sacrificing the chance to see our loved ones this Christmas so that we have a better chance of protecting their lives, so that we can see them at future Christmases."
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