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08th Feb 2021

South Africa strain ‘unlikely to become dominant in UK’, Van-Tam says

Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam says the South African variant of Covid-19 is 'unlikely' to become dominant throughout the UK

Reuben Pinder

Still wear your masks

The South African strain of the coronavirus is not likely to become dominant across the United Kingdom due to its lower transmission rate than the Kent strain, Jonathan Van-Tam has said.

Speaking at a press conference hosted by health secretary Matt Hancock today, the deputy chief medical adviser said ‘early data’ on the South African variant “does not suggest that the South African variant has a distinct transmissibility advantage over our current virus.”

“Because of that there is no reason to think the South African variant will catch up, will overtake our current virus in the next few months,” Van-Tam added.

Concern regarding the South African strain has spread in recent days after reports that it was more resistant to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

Van-Tam said: “Our immediate threat is from our current virus and there is now plenty of evidence that the vaccines that we are deploying are effective against our current virus”.

“So from that perspective, please don’t delay if you are called, take the advantage to protect yourself against the clear and present danger, against the immediate threat,” he added.

He also reiterated that despite concerns about the Oxford vaccines efficacy on the South African strain, the jab would still “rather likely” to have an effect on “serious disease” among people who contract it.

If the strain were to spread further throughout the UK, Van-Tam said people in high risk groups would probably need to receive booster jabs.

“Just as variations to the virus were inevitable it’s almost inevitable that at some point we will need variations to the vaccine. This is not a big fright, it is not a big surprise,” he said.