Health Minister Sajid Javid warned that the new strain may be more contagious than Delta and that vaccines are less effective against it.
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The new version of Covid poses a “significant risk to public health” and the stings may be less effective, Sajid Javid he warned.
The health minister provided the Commons update after the UK announced on Thursday night that it was suspending flights from six South African countries for fear of a new version.
Transport Minister Grant Shapps said the UK had “bought time” by adding South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia to its travel red list, with arrivals ordering them to stay in quarantine hotels on Sunday from 4 o’clock in the morning.
British health officials are working to identify people who have arrived in the UK in recent days from those countries.
Mr Javid told MEPs: “We are concerned that this new variant could pose a major risk to public health. The variant has an unusually large number of mutations.”
Early signs suggest current vaccines “may be less effective against it,” he said.
This groundbreaking story is being updated.