WHO ‘monitoring’ new Covid variant with ‘large number of mutations’ – cases found in UK

Coronavirus latest news headlines on January 4th

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The WHO warned that the variant does have a “large number of mutations”, but stressed that it is currently not circulating widely at the moment.

Speaking in a media breifing on Covid-19, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, from the WHO, said: “This variant…has been characterised as a variant under monitioring.

“Our understanding is it is not very well circulating. 

“Within France, less 1 percent of the samples that were sequenced in France are of this particular variant.”

 

But Dr Van Kerkhove warned that people need to be “on the look out”.

She said: “The reason we classify it as a variant under monitoring is to raise awareness and for people to be on the look out for that.”

The strain, dubbed the IHU varaint, has two “sublineages”, officially called B.1.640.1 and B.1.640.2.

The WHO said that this variant was first reported in September 2021 “in a number of countries”.

 

Express.co.uk confirmed in /news/science/1544585/covid-news-uk-monitoring-new-variant-detected-in-france-ihu-coronavirus-cameroon that at least two cases of this strain have been recorded in the UK 

 UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) told Express.co.uk: “We are aware of a small number of cases of B.1.640 in the UK and have been monitoring this particular variant specifically since late October.

“As it is in the nature of viruses to mutate often and at random, it is not unusual for small numbers of cases to arise featuring new sets of mutations.

“At the present time, it has not been designated a Variant Under Investigation or a Variant of Concern.

 

But Dr Van Kerkhove also stressed that vaccines avaialble for COVID-19 “work against all variants that are circulating”.

She said: They [the vaccines] are highly effective at preventing severe disease and death. 

“I think that is really imporatant for the public to know. 

“When it is your turn, get vaccinated becasue vaccines save lives.”

 

This comes after experts in France were alarmed by “the emergence of a new variant” in the south of the country in December.

The experts highlighted in a paper dated December 29 that they spotted a “cluster” of 12 patients in the same region whose tests showed “an atypical combination”.

Professor Ewan Birney, Deputy Director of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, told Express.co.uk that the new variant that was detected has some similarities with Omicron. 

He said: “This [the new variant] does share many mutations with Omicron, but it has not expanded explosively across the world.

“As with all viruses with many mutations scientists keep a careful watch, but because this virus has not expanded it is not of high concern.”

This is a breaking story. More to follow.

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