UK Will Come Down Hard on South African Variant: Health Secretary

February 1, 2021 Updated: February 1, 2021

The UK will come down hard on the South African variant of the CCP virus, Britain’s Health Secretary said on Monday, as the government ramped up its effort to contain the variant’s spread in the country.

The UK has now identified 105 cases of this variant, 11 of which do not appear to have any links to international travel, Matt Hancock said during a press conference held in Downing Street.

Those cases are the first in the UK of community transmission of the variant, which is more transmissible and is thought to be more resistant to some vaccines.

“There’s currently no evidence to suggest this variant is any more severe, but we need to come down on it hard, and we will,” Hancock said.

“We’ve already made sure that all these cases are isolating and that we’ve done enhanced contact tracing of all of their close contacts. We are surging extra testing into the areas where this variant has been found and sequencing every single positive case.”

Surrey Council earlier announced it was introducing surge testing after the emergence of two cases.

The Department of Health and Social Care later confirmed that other cases had emerged in London, Walsall in the West Midlands, Hertfordshire, Essex, near Maidstone in Kent, and near Preston in Lancashire.

“Every person over 16 living in these locations is strongly encouraged to take a COVID test this week, whether they are showing symptoms or not,” the Department of Health said in a statement to The Epoch Times.

Hancock said, “Working with local authorities, we are going door-to-door to test people in the local area.”

He urged people in the affected areas to get tested “so that we can break the chains of transmission of this new variant.”

The UK is helping other countries in the world to identify new CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus variants by offering its capacity and expertise globally through the newly established New Variant Assessment Platform.

The UK is doing this “because a mutation in one part of the world is a threat to people everywhere,” Hancock said.

He said 9.2 million people across the UK have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“We’ve now vaccinated almost nine in ten of all over 80s in the UK and now, as of today, we’ve vaccinated over half of all people in their 70s,” he said.

Earlier on Monday, the government announced that it had ordered another 40 million vaccine doses from French company Valneva, bringing the total number of vaccine doses secured by the UK to 407 million.

Hancock said the government will protect UK supply but will also “play our part to ensure the whole world can get the jab,” because he believes that vaccine roll-out is “a global effort.”

Simon Veazey contributed to this report.