Though many across the globe have hopes that the roll-out of the new coronavirus vaccine will mean the end of the pandemic, officials in the United Kingdom have warned there is a new potential threat on the horizon — a recently developed COVID-19 strain that spreads more quickly than the original virus.
According to RTE, Professor Chris Whitty, who serves as England’s Chief Medical Officer, recently announced that doctors and scientists have come across a contagious new strain in the U.K. He has alerted the World Health Organization about the new disease.
“As announced on Monday, the U.K, has identified a new variant of COVID-19 through Public Health England’s genomic surveillance,” he noted in a statement.
The professor added data showed that the outbreak appeared to be centered in the southeastern region of the country and that there was a “rapid spread of the new variant.” Whitty continued to state that incidence rates have been so high that the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) officially decided to declare the new variant had a higher contagion rate.
However, while the new virus may be more likely to spread from person to person, it currently does not seem to be more deadly.
“There is no current evidence to suggest the new strain causes a higher mortality rate or that it affects vaccines and treatments, although urgent work is under way to confirm this,” he said.
It is not known whether the new version of the coronavirus is also present in other nations, but its spread would be dire for many other countries, like the U.S., where numerous cities and states are already nearing maximum ICU capacity. For example, California has around 97 percent of its beds occupied despite strict lockdown orders, per The Mercury News.
Worse still, the emergence of a more contagious variant comes as much of the public had likely hoped to spend time with friends and family over the holidays. Whitty has warned that despite the festive season, citizens must remain vigilant to prevent worsening the crisis.
“Given this latest development, it is now more vital than ever that the public continue to take action in their area to reduce transmission,” he said.
The announcement has already garnered reactions from other leaders and politicians, such as Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster, who described the new strain as “very concerning.”
Meanwhile, both the United Kingdom and the United States are underway in dispersing the new COVID-19 vaccine to the population. As was previously reported by The Inquisitr, Vice President Mike Pence received his shot earlier this week on television to quell concerns about the drug.