The pandemic is “far from over”, health secretary Sajid Javid has said today, in response to the new variant Nu that has raised global concerns.
The new B.1.1.529 Covid-19 strain has now been found in Belgium, Israel and Hong Kong.
“One of the lessons of this pandemic has been that we must move quickly and at the earliest possible moment,” the health secretary told the Commons this morning, adding that the global response must be one of caution.
The variant, first detected in Africa, has prompted South Africa, Botwana, Ethiopia, Namibia, Eswatini and Lesotho to be placed on the UK’s red travel list.
From 4am on Sunday, travellers coming from the red listed countries will have to undergo hotel quarantine.
The health secretary urged anyone entering the UK before the early hours of Sunday morning to take a PCR test on their second and 8th day of arrival – even if they are double vaccinated.
“We’re working quickly and we’re working with a high degree of uncertainty,” Javid continued, adding that the government is working with South Africa and the European Union to “ensure an aligned response”.
“But this variant is a reminder for all of us that this pandemic is far from over.”
It has been somewhat expected that, one day, a Covid-19 variant may mutate so that vaccines are less effective in combatting the virus.
Famed vaccine maker Pfizer said today that if a “vaccine-escape” variant emerges, Pfizer and BioNTech expect to be able to develop a tailor-made jab against that variant in around 100 days, subject to regulatory approval.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps told BBC’s Breakfast show: “We can’t take risks when we see a variant which could well defeat the vaccine – or at least that’s the concern – and we need just a bit of time to check that out.”