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New COVID variant found in UK that may be linked to faster spread of disease, officials say


Oh, great

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

A new strain of the novel coronavirus potentially linked to a faster spread of the disease has been discovered in south Wales, U.K. officials announced Monday.

What are the details?

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that the new variant "may be associated" with a faster spread in southeast England, but there is "nothing to suggest" that it causes worse disease or resistance to vaccines, BBC News reported.

"Initial analysis suggests that this variant is growing faster than the existing variants," Hancock said in the House of Commons Monday.

Hancock told British lawmakers that while most of the cases have been reported in the south of England, the strain had spread to at least 60 council areas. He added that the World Health Organization has been notified.

"We've currently identified over 1,000 cases with this variant predominantly in the south of England, although cases have been identified in nearly 60 different local authority areas," he told British lawmakers while rolling out harsher restrictions in London and parts of Essex and Hertforfdshire.

"We do not know the extent to which this is because of the new variant, but no matter its cause we have to take swift and decisive action which unfortunately is absolutely essential to control this deadly disease while the vaccine is rolled out."

What else?

While news of a coronavirus variant may sound alarming, the mutation of a virus is actually a normal occurrence.

"It is natural for a virus to mutate over time and we have seen a range of mutations in Wales," the Welsh government said in a statement. "Viruses are living beings that change and adapt, and we know that since the original Wuhan virus there [have] actually been 25 mutations."

The news in this case is that the strain has been potentially linked to a faster spread of the disease, though that has not been confirmed yet by any further testing beyond the U.K.'s "initial analyses."

On Monday, Hancock said that similar variants have been discovered across the U.K. and in other countries in recent months and confirmed that further analysis of the new strain is being conducted by health experts.

Anything else?

The U.K. government began distribution of Pfizer and BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine last week, reportedly aiming to vaccinate all people over age 50 in the country by spring. However, the process has slowed following some initial complications, including allergic reactions to the vaccine by some.

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