Matt Hancock press conference: Health Secretary to address nation as third variant found

Matt Hancock: Link between hospitalisations and deaths is 'breaking'

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Last night Public Health England (PHE) warned it has identified 16 cases of a mutant strain of Covid. The new form of the virus is similar to the South Africa and Brazil variants which are thought to be less susceptible to the current vaccines.

The Health Secretary will update Brits on the state of the UK’s fight against coronavirus in a televised briefing from Downing Street at 5pm tonight.

PHE has designated the strain as a “variant under investigation” but said there was no need to be immediately worried.

All 16 cases of the variant have been identified and told to isolate.

If the mutant variant spread through the population it would risk putting Boris Johnson’s roadmap to end lockdown at risk.

There are fears those who have previously had coronavirus, or have been vaccinated, could still catch the new strain.

So far almost 21 million people have received a first dose of a Covid vaccine, 40 percent of the adult population.

Two thirds of those in the top nine priority groups are thought to have been given an injection.

Once all of those in the nine priority groups have built up immunity, coronavirus deaths are expected to drop by 99 percent.

The impact of the vaccine rollout is already beginning to yield results in the number of cases, hospitalisations and deaths.

Thee has been a 34.4 percent drop in new cases of the virus over the past week with 6,573 new cases recorded yesterday.

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Deaths have also plummeted at a similar rate.

Over the last seven days there has been a 33.6 percent drop in fatalities with 242 new deaths recorded yesterday.

Amid fears new variants could lead to a new spread of the virus, work is already under way to modify the current vaccines.

The UK is understood to already be preparing for if it needs to give the population third vaccines in the autumn to respond to the different strains.

Yesterday the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which must approve all vaccines for use in the UK, said it was fast-tracking the approval of new jabs.

The body said there would be no need for “lengthy” clinical studies before a modified jab could be used.

Instead, manufacturers would need “to provide robust evidence that the modified vaccine produces an immune response”.

MHRA Chief Scientific Officer, Dr Christian Schneider said: ”Our priority is to get effective vaccines to the public in as short a time as possible, without compromising on safety. 

“Should any modifications to authorised COVID-19 vaccines be necessary, this regulatory approach should help to do just that.”

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