By Rachael Grealish
The Health Secretary has confirmed 105 cases of the new COVID-19 South African variant have been found in the UK.
Speaking from Downing Street Matt Hancock also confirmed 9.2 million people have received their first dose of the COVID vaccine.
He said: “This weekend the equivalent of one in every 60 people, in the UK, was vaccinated.
“Almost nine in 10 of all over-80s have been vaccinated, and over half of all people in their 70s have been vaccinated.”
Hancock also said all eligible care home residents and staff in England have been offered vaccines.
Of the 105 cases of the South African variant have been identified in the UK, 11 of them appear to have no connection to travel.
“There’s currently no evidence to suggest this variant is any more severe. But we need to come down on it hard, and we will,” the Health Secretary said.
Enhanced testing is now being carried out in the eight postcode areas where there have been cases of the South African variant not linked to travel.
They are: W7, N17 and CR4 in London, WS2 in Walsall, ME15 in Kent, EN10 in Hertfordshire, GU21 in Surrey and PR9 in Lancashire.
Dr Susan Hopkins, who joined the conference, was asked about the confidence existing vaccines are against the new variant.
She said: “All the vaccines used to date in trials have been effective against the South African variant. She says she expects other vaccines to have a similar level of effectiveness.”
When asked if the government will be able to stop the transmission of the new variant Hancock said he ‘hopes extra testing and contact tracing’ will help.
He said: “Overall cases are coming down. He says he hopes extra testing and contact tracing can stop the spread of the South African variant. Contact tracing now finds 95 percent of contacts and in these cases people will be going door to door to search out contacts.”