UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock
Photo: AFP

Britain has detected a new variant of the coronavirus in contacts of cases who have travelled from South Africa, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Wednesday.

South Africa's health department said last week that a new genetic mutation of the virus had been found and might be responsible for a recent surge in infections there.

The UK is imposing immediate restrictions on travel from South Africa. Hancock also said the new variant appeared to have mutated further and become even more infectious.

Meanwhile, the super-infectious corona variant is sweeping across Britain with hotspots London and the East of England revealing the fastest growing outbreaks. The R rate figure is highest in East of England and in London, with a possible value of between 1.2 and 1.5. This means that every 10 people infected will infect between 12 and 15 more.

The variant has triggered ‘explosive’ outbreaks in schools, since children more susceptible to the variant. In fact, scientists have warned that the new strain – believed to be up to 70 per cent more infectious than normal Covid – will already be circulating 'in the vast majority, if not all' European countries, despite only a handful confirming cases, online reports said.

There is an even chance that half of those who have tested positive after coming from the UK may be potential carriers of the new Covid strain in India.

Thus far, 20 passengers from UK have tested positive.

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