There were now ten different versions of Covid in the UK, according to a report from Public Health England (PHE) today.
PHE research and analysis shows that at least four of these were first detected in the UK.
By far the most widespread variant is the variant VOC-20DEC-01, which became known in connection with the new variant for the first time in December, when PHE investigated why the infection rates in Kent were not falling.
The VOC designation stands for “Variant of Concern”.
However, three other variants – VUI-21FEB-01, VOC-21FEB-02 and VUI-21FEB-03 – were also detected in Great Britain for the first time. The VUI name stands for “V ariant Under Investigation”.
Other variants in Great Britain are VOC-20DEC-02 (first detected in South Africa), VUI-21JAN-01 (first detected in Brazil) and VOC-21JAN-02 (first detected in Japan ex Manaus, Brazil).
It has yet to be confirmed where three other variants currently in the country – VUI-21FEB-04, VUI-21MAR-01, and VUI-21MAR-02 – were first discovered.
Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford, said earlier today that attending foreign holidays this summer risks bringing more new variants of the coronavirus to the UK.
He reiterated his call on the people of Wales to vacation domestically, although Boris Johnson will lift international travel restrictions across the UK in the coming months.
He cited France as an example of a country where increasing cases have resulted in a new national lockdown.
However, according to two new studies, the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine appears to offer 100% protection against the South African variant and most likely against the Brazilian variant.
Research released today by Pfizer / BioNTech provides the first human evidence of how the vaccine protects against the South African variant that has worried scientists.
The pharmaceutical company said its results show that the vaccine is 100% effective against Covid-19 cases in South Africa – where the South African variant is now widely used.
Nine cases of the South African variant of Covid have been observed among 800 people in South Africa – all in the group not given the vaccine.
Of the nine infected people, the analysis revealed that they had six of nine known South African variant strains.
Pfizer said the data “support previous results from immunogenicity studies showing that (the vaccine) induced a robust neutralizing antibody response to the (South African) variant”.