South African Covid variant 'spreads faster' than UK mutant strain and vaccines may not work, top scientist warns

THE new mutant strain of coronavirus from South Africa could be resistant to the vaccine, an expert has warned.

Sir John Bell said a "big question mark" remains over whether the super-infectious new strain can be prevented with the vaccines being rolled out across the world, but added if that was the case it would not take long to develop an effective one.

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The Oxford University scientist also said the South Africa strain is "more worrying" than a mutant strain discovered in the southeast of England because it is more infectious.

He told Times Radio: "The mutations associated with the South African form are really pretty substantial changes in the structure of the protein."

He added: "I think it's unlikely that these mutations will turn off the effects of vaccines entirely – I think they'll still have a residual effect.

"It might take a month, or six weeks, to get a new vaccine, so everybody should stay calm. It's going to be fine"

But Sir John warned we will now be caught in a game of "cat and mouse" as further variants emerge.

The new strain, named 501.V2, was discovered just before Christmas.

It is not thought to be any deadlier than the current known strains of coronavirus.

Two cases of the mutant strain have been discovered in the UK – but experts have warned the two cases are likely just the “tip of the iceberg."

rofessor Lawrence Young, a molecular oncologist, University of Warwick, told The Sun: “If this strain is as transmissible as suggested by the data that has come out of South Africa, then just identifying a few cases recently, it's probably just the tip of the iceberg, I suspect.

“You can identify it in a couple of people… but they'll be more, for sure.

“Some cases will be from people spreading it in the UK, and some will be from other introductions from South Africa.”

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