New coronavirus variant: What is it and will the Covid vaccine still work?

14 December 2020, 16:44

A new coronavirus variant has been identified in the South East, confirmed Matt Hancock
A new coronavirus variant has been identified in the South East, confirmed Matt Hancock. Picture: Getty/PA

By Zoe Adams

Matt Hancock has confirmed a new variant of coronavirus could be behind fast spread in new tier 3 areas - but what is it? And what does it mean for the vaccine?

A new variant of coronavirus has been identified, Matt Hancock has confirmed during his update in parliament.

Announcing tougher Covid restrictions for areas such as London, Hertfordshire and parts of Essex, the Health Secretary also confirmed experts have identified a new strain of coronavirus.

Hancock said: “Over the last few days, thanks to our world-class genomic capability in the UK, we have identified a new variant of coronavirus which may be associated with the faster spread in the South of England."

So what is the new coronavirus variant and strain? Will the Covid vaccine still work? Here’s what we know so far:

Matt Hancock confirmed the new Covid findings in his latest statement
Matt Hancock confirmed the new Covid findings in his latest statement. Picture: PA

What is the new coronavirus strain?

It’s early data around the new strain of Covid but Matt Hancock has revealed initial analysis shows the variant is growing faster than the existing ones.

He said “numbers are increasing rapidly” and added: “I must stress at this point that there is currently nothing to suggest that this variant is more likely to cause serious disease.”

The Health Secretary warned the latest strain proves we must stay vigilant and follow the right rules to help prevent further spread of the existing virus and the new variant.

The Covid vaccine is being questioned following the latest announcement
The Covid vaccine is being questioned following the latest announcement. Picture: PA

Does the new coronavirus strain mean the vaccine won’t work?

With a new identified Covid-19 strain, there are questions over how successful the Pfizer vaccine, currently being rolled out in the UK, will be.

Hancock said: “It's highly unlikely that this mutation would fail to respond to a vaccine.”