New Covid strain is '70% more contagious' as cases of high velocity mutant coronavirus double in a WEEK

THE NEW strain of Covid that's ripping through London and the South is up to 70 per cent more contagious, Boris Johnson said today.

The "frighteningly transmissable" variation has burst the Christmas bubble for millions of Brits and forced the area into a new Tier 4 lockdown.

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It's thought the new strain – called VUI202012/01 – emerged in London and the South East as early as September, Sir Patrick Vallance said at a Downing Street briefing.

The high velocity mutant strain has seen Covid more than double in the last week, as data shows a sharp increase in hospital admissions across London and the South.

Speaking today at a No10 briefing, the Prime Minsiter said the new strain is up to "70 per cent more transmissible" than the original version of the disease".

He stressed it is early data but told the public "it's the best we have at the moment", adding it could see the R rate increase by 0.4.

Click the links below to find out more…

  • Boris Johnson today cancelled Christmas for millions as he put London, the South East and East in Tier 4 lockdown
  • The new variant strain of the virus which causes Covid-19 may be up to 70% more transmissible
  • All Brits have been told to stay local during the festive season
  • Christmas bubbles in Tiers 1, 2 and 3 have been cut to just 24 hours on December 25
  • Non-essential shops and gyms in Tier 4 areas must be closed from midnight
  • Those in Tier 4 will be able to meet only one other person outdoors – but must not stay overnight from home
  • Wales will go into lockdown from tonight – but people can bubble for Christmas day only

New strain is spreading 'very rapidly'

Sir Patrick Vallance, Chief Scientific Officer said the new strain as grown very rapidly and urged everyone to act as thought they are infectious, because so many cases are asymptomatic.

He said: "Viruses mutate all the time, but the new variant contains 23 different changes, many of them associated with the protein the virus makes.

"This is an unusually large number of variants, it’s also got variants in areas of the virus that are known to be how the virus binds to and enters cells.

"So there are some changes that cause concern in terms of how the virus looks."

He said the first cases are thought to have occurred in London or Kent in mid-September.

"By the middle of November, 27 per cent or so of cases in London and the South East were due to the new variant," Sir Patrick said.

"By December 9, the figures were much higher, 60 per cent of cases in London were the new variant."

Mutant strain is now dominant

Sir Patrick said not only does the new strain appear to move fast, it has increased it's ability to transmit and is "becoming the dominant variant, beating all others in terms of transmission".

But the Prime Minister and Sir Patrick both stressed that there is no evidence the new strain is more lethal or likely to cause more severe illness.

The PM added: "Equally there is no evidence to suggest the vaccine will be any less effective."

Bursting the Christmas bubble

London, the South East and East are being moved to a new Tier 4 lockdown different households now banned from mixing on Christmas Day.

Travel and different households mixing will be banned under the new highest level tier – with families elsewhere only allowed to form ‘Christmas bubbles’ on December 25 itself, the PM told the nation today.

He had insisted just five days ago that festive bubbles would go ahead despite mounting pressure after the new mutant strain of Covid was identified.

Boris has now told around 20 million Brits in Tier 4 they will not be able to see their families this Christmas thanks to his tough crackdown.

He warned the nation he could not ignore the terrifying new strain and vowed: "We have to act to protect the public."

Boris told the nation today: "As Prime Minister, it is my duty to take the difficult decisions, to do what is right to protect the people of this country. 

"Given the early evidence we have on this new variant of the virus, and the potential risk it poses, it is with a heavy heart that I must tell you we cannot continue with Christmas as planned.

"I sincerely believe there is no alternative open to me."


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Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, said the UK has informed the World Health Organisation that the new variant coronavirus can spread more rapidly.

He explained previously: "There is no current evidence to suggest the new strain causes a higher mortality rate or that it affects vaccines and treatments, although urgent work is under way to confirm this.

"Given this latest development, it is now more vital than ever that the public continue to take action in their area to reduce transmission."

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