The World Health Organisation is aware of reports that a new variant of COVID-19 has been identified in the United Kingdom, although there is no evidence to suggest that the mutation will impact the effectiveness of vaccines against the disease, WHO Health Emergencies Programme Executive Director Mike Ryan said on Monday.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock earlier in the day announced that a new variant of COVID-19 had been identified in the south of England, and was responsible for roughly 1,000 cases.
“We are aware of this genetic variant I think reported in about 1,000 individuals in England, and the authorities in the UK under Matt Hancock’s leadership are obviously looking at the significance of this,” Ryan said at a WHO virtual press briefing.
According to the WHO official, there was no evidence to suggest that the new variant of the disease would transmit more easily or undermine vaccines against COVID-19 that are being rolled out.
“Does this make this virus more serious? Does it allow the virus to transmit more easily? Does it in any way interfere with diagnostics? Would it in any way interfere with vaccine effectiveness? None of these questions have been addressed yet, and we have no information to suggest that any of that is the case,” Ryan remarked.
During his appearance in parliament earlier in the day, Hancock also revealed that London will be moved into the country’s highest coronavirus disease alert level tier from Wednesday, amid a surge of new cases in the UK capital.
The UK began its mass vaccination program, using a vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech, this past Tuesday.