British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Monday that he is “incredibly worried about the South African variant” of the novel coronavirus and described it as “even more of a problem” than the new UK strain.
“This is a very, very significant problem,” Hancock told BBC radio.
The UK has already restricted flights from South Africa and mandated anyone traveling from there to quarantine on arrival.
Vaccine questions: Meanwhile, a leading Oxford scientist has said there was a “big question mark” around the effectiveness of current vaccines on the South African variant.
“My gut feeling is the vaccine will be still effective against the Kent strain,” Sir John Bell told Times Radio, adding “I don’t know about the South African strain, there’s a big question mark about that.”
The UK variant is believed to have originated in southeast England. British scientists say the pattern of mutations makes it more easily transmitted, although it does not appear to cause more severe disease.
"The mutations associated with the South African form are really pretty substantial changes in the structure of the protein," Bell added.