The new Covid-19 variant, originating from south-east England, has been identified in Denmark, the Netherlands and as far as Australia, World Health Organization (WHO) Covid-19 technical lead Maria Van Kerkhove said on Sunday.
"We understand that this variant has been identified also in Denmark, in the Netherlands and there was one case in Australia and it didn’t spread further there,” she told the BBC in a pre-recorded interview.
Asked whether it was her understanding that the new variant originated or evolved from southeastern England, she said: “It is, yes. From the information that [the UK] shared with us in either south-east England or in London, yes.”
She added that “the UK had picked [the existence of the new variant] up in September and seen that this had been circulating in south-east England since September.”
“It is of concern that the virus is spreading and that it has so many mutations,” she said.
She also added: “We understand that the virus does not cause more severe disease from the preliminary information that [the UK] shared with us, although again those studies are underway to look at hospitalized patients with this variant.”
Van Kerkhove said that doing more sequencing will be helpful in determining whether this variant is circulating elsewhere.
“The longer this virus spreads, the more opportunities it has to change. So we really need to do everything we can right now to prevent spread,” she added.