The World Health Organization is in “close contact” with UK officials as a new variant of coronavirus is emerging.
The WHO said in a tweet that the UK was sharing information from ongoing studies into the mutation and that the WHO would update member states and the public “as we learn more about the characteristics of this virus variant [and] any implications”.
We’re in close contact with UK 🇬🇧 officials on the new #COVID19 virus variant. They’ll continue to share info & results of their analysis & ongoing studies. We’ll update Member States & public as we learn more about the characteristics of this virus variant & any implications.
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) December 19, 2020
Although there is “considerable uncertainty”, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the new variant may be up to 70% more transmissible than the old one.
But, officials said that there is no current evidence to suggest the new variant causes a higher mortality rate or that it is affected any differently by vaccines and treatments.
“I think this is a situation which is going to make things a lot worse, but there are some really optimistic things if you look once we get the vaccine out, assuming the vaccine works against this, which at the moment is the working assumption,” said England’s chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty.
The new variant is spreading more rapidly than the previous one. However, it is not believed to be more deadly.
Larger parts of South-east England, including London, are imposing stricter levels of restrictions to limit the spread of the virus.