A variant of the coronavirus identified in South Africa is more problematic than the mutation found in the U.K., Britain’s health minister said Monday, as both strains spread rapidly.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC the variant found in South Africa was especially concerning.
“This is a very, very significant problem … and it’s even more of a problem than the U.K. new variant,” he told the BBC’s “Today” program.
Questions have been raised over how the coronavirus vaccines will work against the new variants. Several experts have said they expect current vaccines to protect against the new strains.
But Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University John Bell said on Sunday that the variant identified in South Africa was more troubling than an earlier mutation that has now spread from the UK to the United States.
“They both have multiple, different mutations in them, so they’re not a single mutation,” he told Times Radio. “And the mutations associated with the South African form are really pretty substantial changes in the structure of the (virus’ spike) protein.”
However, he told the radio station that if the vaccine did not work on this variant then it was likely the vaccines could be adapted and that would not take as long as a year.