There is no suggestion a new variant of Covid-19 linked to the faster spread of the virus will fail to respond to a vaccine, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.
Hancock told MPs at least 60 different local authorities in England have recorded coronavirus infections caused by this new variant.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has been notified and it is currently being examined at Porton Down, the UK’s military research facility in Wiltshire.
Many people on social media are worried the Pfizer vaccine will not work against the new variant, citing the fact that people get seasonal flu jabs to fight off new variants.
But Hancock said there was “nothing to suggest” it was a worse strain or that vaccine would no longer work.
It comes after it was announced that London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire will be placed into tier 3 lockdown restrictions from midnight on Tuesday following an “exponential” rise in the virus in the South East of England.
Mr Hancock said: “We've currently identified over 1,000 cases with this variant predominantly in the South of England although cases have been identified in nearly 60 different local authority areas.
"We do not know the extent to which this is because of the new variant but no matter its cause we have to take swift and decisive action which unfortunately is absolutely essential to control this deadly disease while the vaccine is rolled out."
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The variant was first identified following routine surveillance by Public Health England last week.
It is believed to be similar to the mutation discovered in other countries in recent months.
Mr Hancock added: “I must stress at this point there is currently nothing to suggest that this variant is more likely to cause serious disease.
“And the latest clinical advice is that it's highly unlikely this mutation would fail to respond to a vaccine."
A decision on whether London and parts of the South East of England had been due on Wednesday but the government brought the announcement forward following a surge in cases.
Mr Hancock told the Commons experts do not yet know whether increases are down to the new variant, but added: “No matter its cause we have to take swift and decisive action which unfortunately is absolutely essential to control this deadly disease while the vaccine is rolled out.
"In some parts of these areas the doubling time is around every seven days."
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