"New variant" cases of Covid-19 are falling across the UK, according to the country’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, who credits extra border measures for the drop.
British people arriving home from "high risk" countries have to undergo a 10-day hotel quarantine at their own expense in a bid to tighten border controls to try to curb one of the world's worst coronavirus outbreaks.
The UK has the highest Covid-19 death toll in Europe, with more than 120,000 fatalities, and remains under strict pandemic restrictions, partly due to a new, more transmissible variant of coronavirus first discovered in southeast England. Other variants, including those first detected in South Africa and Brazil, are also spreading globally.
“In the last week or so, there were just over a dozen new cases, which is far smaller than we were seeing even a couple of weeks ago," Hancock said on Sky News Tuesday morning.
"So the extra measures we’re taking at the border are working, and also the lower cases rate makes it much less likely that there will be new variants here because new variants tend to rise when you’ve got an area that’s got a very high case rate and the virus is trying to escape from the immunity are getting naturally," he added.
Asked how the government’s plan to ease lockdown in England, published Monday, would affect the spread of the South African and Brazilian variants, Hancock responded: "Well, the good news is that the number of new variant cases we’re finding across the whole UK has fallen quite sharply over the last month."
"Continued work" is needed to understand the effectiveness of vaccines against the South African and Brazilian variants, he said, and that will impact a government review into international travel restrictions, announced yesterday.
After the interview, Hancock tweeted that Prime Minister Boris Johnson's roadmap out England's lockdown is "only possible because of the vaccine roll-out."
"It's vital everybody plays their part so we can get out of this as soon as we possibly can," he added.