Brazil variant – Boris Johnson ‘concerned’ about third new coronavirus strain found in Japan

BORIS Johnson is "concerned" about a THIRD new strain of Covid, which has been found in Brazil and Japan.

The PM admitted this afternoon he was worried about yet another new variant which is more easily transmitted but promised Britain's border controls were enough to stop infections coming in from abroad.

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Chair of the Health Select Committee, Jeremy Hunt, said today that experts on Nervetag were worried about a strain which had escaped from Brazil over to Japan – leading to flight bans and even tighter lockdowns.

Speaking to MPs this afternoon, the PM said: "Yes you’re absolutely right, we are concerned about the new Brazilian variant.

"We already have tough measures, as you know, to stop from new infections come from abroad.

"We are taking steps to do that in response to the Brazilian variation."

The Prime Minister added that there were lots of questions "still unanswered" about the new variant.

He added: "We don't know for instance, any more than we know whether the South African variant is vaccine resistant."

It comes as:

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  • Spain travel ban extended to February due to UK mutant Covid strain
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  • Schools could stay shut BEYOND Feb half term as Gavin Williamson won’t guarantee nurseries will stay open

Britain has banned direct flights from South Africa and a number of other nations to try and stop the even more contagious form of Covid from getting to the UK.

Like with the South African variant strain, scientists are not sure if it will still be affected by the vaccine.

Japanese health officials claimed the new variant of the virus discovered in their country has similarities to that of the highly-contagious strains in the UK and South Africa.

The new strain was detected on passengers who had got off a plane from Brazil at the beginning of January.

According to Nikkei Asia, the passengers landed at Haneda Airport in Tokyo on Saturday, January 2. 

 

Japan has reported the new strain to the World Health Organisation (WHO), and has seen a sharp rise in cases in recent weeks.

They have expanded their state of emergency to cover even more regions as the country records record numbers of infections.

It's not yet known if this strain is present in the UK or not.

VACCINE WORRIES

Experts have previously said that vaccines can be tweaked in order to effectively treat any new strains of Covid which may emerge as the virus continues to mutate.

Nadhim Zahawi, vaccine development minister, told the Commons Science and Technology Committee that measures have been put in place to produce the "next iteration" of jabs if needed.

There is not yet any evidence that suggests that the vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZenece – which are already being rolled out in the UK – will not be effective against either the South African variant or the English variant.

Mr Zahaw added: "We want to be able to rapidly… be able to produce the next iteration, manufacture it, and be ready for if the vaccine does mutate to a level where we do need the next iteration of a vaccine.

"There's no evidence to suggest that the current vaccines will not be effective against the current mutations that we have," he told the committee.

"Scientists at Porton Down are looking at both the Kent variant – which has been so infectious – and the South African variant.

"We have to be ready for that what if question: what if there is a variant that the vaccines don't work as well on?

"We have to be ready for that and… we can be ready within a period of sort of 30 to 40 days, we would have the next vaccine being manufactured.

"We've invested, not just in infrastructure, but in thinking through how we would do that."

He added that Pfizer is ready to "engage" with the government if a new vaccine needs to be produced at speed.

Experts say the South Africa strain is "more worrying" than a mutant strain discovered in the southeast of England because it is even more infectious.

The English strain is part of the reason England was forced into a third national lockdown after some areas were unable to contain cases – even in Tier 4 restrictions.

That new strain, named 501.V2, was discovered just before Christmas.

It is not thought to be any deadlier than the current known strains of coronavirus.

But it is reckoned to be highly infectious and is behind a spiralling second wave in South Africa.

Just two cases have been reported in the UK so far.

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