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Mutated coronavirus variant from SA found in UK, says health minister

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Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock. Picture: Pippa Fowles/Reuters

LONDON – Britain has detected a new variant of the coronavirus in contacts of cases who have travelled from South Africa, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Wednesday.

South Africa’s health department said last week that a new genetic mutation of the virus had been found and might be responsible for a recent surge in infections there.

“Thanks to the impressive genomic capability of the South Africans, we’ve detected two cases of another new variant of coronavirus here in the UK,” Hancock told a media briefing.

“Both are contacts of cases who have travelled from South Africa over the past few weeks.”

Britain is already battling to curb the spread of a mutated strain of the virus which is up to 70% more transmissible, and Hancock said the new variant appeared to have mutated further and was more infectious.

He said close contacts of those with the new variant were being quarantined and all those who had been in South Africa in the last fortnight also needed to quarantine.

He also said immediate restrictions were being imposed on travel from South Africa.