New Delhi: Amid scientists' concern over a Covid variant that has been termed as the 'worst ever seen', UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid on Friday sounded an alarm that the new super-mutant variant will make vaccines at least 40 per cent less effective.
As per a report by The Daily Mirror, UK scientists first became aware of the new strain on November 23 after samples were uploaded to a Covid variant tracking website from South Africa, Hong Kong and then Botswana. A total of 59 samples have been uploaded to the website so far.
On Thursday, Javid announced that South Africa and five other southern African countries, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini, would enter the UK's travel red list. Flights to those countries are being stopped, while travellers returning to the UK from those countries will have to quarantine. Israel has done the same, adding a sixth country, Mozambique, to its list.
"Our scientists are deeply concerned about this variant. I'm concerned, of course, that's one of the reasons we have taken this action today," the Health Secretary said.
The variant - which could be named 'Nu' by the World Health Organization in the coming days - has caused an 'exponential' rise in infections in South Africa.
"The early indication we have of this variant is it may be more transmissible than the Delta variant and the vaccines that we currently have may be less effective against it."
Experts explained earlier how the B.1.1.529 variant (left) has more than 30 mutations -- the most ever recorded in a variant and twice as many as Delta -- that suggest it could be more jab-resistant and transmissible than any version before it, the Daily Mail reported.
No cases have been detected in the UK so far but everyone who has returned from South Africa in the past 10 days will be contacted and asked to take a test.
At the moment, around 500 and 700 people are travelling to the UK from South Africa each day, but it is expected this figure could increase as the festive period begins, the Daily Mail report added.