Coronavirus UK news – Vaccines may NOT WORK against mutant super-spreading covid strain from South Africa, experts fear

CORONAVIRUS vaccines may not work against a South African strain of the virus, experts fear.

The South African variant spreads even faster than the terrifying Kent strain that has wreaked havoc across the UK in recent weeks and saw Christmas cancelled for millions of Brits.

But while the Kent strain so far shows no sign of being resistant to the coronavirus vaccines rolling out across the UK this week, experts are not so sure the same can be said for the South African variant.

Oxford University scientist Sir John Bell said a "big question mark" remains over whether the super-infectious new variant can be prevented with the vaccines being rolled out across the world.

He told Times Radio: "The mutations associated with the South African form are really pretty substantial changes in the structure of the protein."

Follow the very latest news, updates and analysis of the coronavirus crisis in our live blog below.

  • Shayma Bakht


    The NHS would be able to deliver two million doses of the coronavirus vaccine per week if it receives enough supplies, the Health Secretary has said.

    Matt Hancock told BBC Breakfast: "If the NHS needs to go faster, then it will go faster. If there were two million doses a week being delivered, then the NHS would deliver at that speed.

    "That's the critical question, but that supply isn't there yet, and we are working very closely with the manufacturers."


  • Shayma Bakht


    Dialysis patient Brian Pinker, 82, has become the first person to be vaccinated with the new Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine after being given the jab at Oxford University Hospital, NHS England said.

    Mr Pinker, a dialysis patient who describes himself as Oxford born and bred, said in a statement issued by NHS England, said: "I am so pleased to be getting the Covid vaccine today and really proud that it is one that was invented in Oxford. The nurses, doctors and staff today have all been brilliant and I can now really look forward to celebrating my 48th wedding anniversary with my wife Shirley later this year."

    Sam Foster, Chief Nursing Officer at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, who administered the vaccine to Mr Pinker, said: "It was a real privilege to be able to deliver the first Oxford vaccine at the Churchill Hospital here in Oxford, just a few hundred metres from where it was developed.

    "We look forward to vaccinating many more patients and health and care staff with the Oxford vaccine in the coming weeks which will make a huge difference to people living in the communities we serve and the staff who care for them in our hospitals."

  • Shayma Bakht


    Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said "I hope our soldiers will help us get to the day when these restrictions will start to lift" as Greater Manchester welcomed 800 troops to help with testing.

    He said: "The new year will see new levels of Armed Forces support to overcoming this pandemic. Thousands of service personnel are working throughout the United Kingdom, wherever they are needed to assist the civil authorities.

    "Manchester is the latest of those tasks and will be an important contribution to protecting the highest risk groups as the city seeks to recover. As a North West MP, I am acutely aware of the considerable time many of us have been labouring under some form of lockdown and I hope our soldiers will help us get to the day when these restrictions will start to lift."

    More 5,000 Armed Forces personnel are currently deployed to support the response to Covid-19 across the UK, working on 70 different tasks ranging from schools testing to the rollout of vaccines, say the Ministry of Defence.

    Thousands more are supporting efforts through their day jobs in military planning, defence medical services, defence science and technology laboratories and elsewhere, the MoD added.

  • John Hall


    The Army will assist with targeted coronavirus testing throughout Greater Manchester as part of its biggest homeland operation in peacetime.

    From today, over 800 personnel deploying from nine regiments will prepare to work across all of Greater Manchester to carry out asymptomatic testing of specific populations.

    Those targeted will be people at higher risk of infection like social care staff, key workers, bus drivers, and those in care homes and shared accommodation for the homeless.

    The task follows similar asymptomatic community testing in Liverpool, Lancashire, Merthyr Tydfil, Medway, and Kirklees.

    The Armed Forces involvement was requested by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), through the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

  • John Hall


    NASUWT general secretary Dr Patrick Roach called for a move to remote learning for all pupils nationwide.

    He said: "The NASUWT is completely committed to ensuring that children can return to school as quickly as possible.

    "However, it is now abundantly clear that the pandemic is seriously impacting on the ability of all schools and colleges to continue to operate normally.

    "The NASUWT is calling for an immediate nationwide move to remote education for all pupils in primary, secondary and special schools and colleges."

  • John Hall


    In a joint statement, unions in the education sector said staff were at "serious risk" of infection by returning to schools and called on the Prime Minister to meet to discuss safety.

    The statement, signed by GMB, NAHT, NASUWT, NEU, Unison and Unite, said: "The Government's chaotic handling of the opening of schools has caused confusion for teachers, school staff and parents alike.

    "Bringing all pupils back into classrooms while the rate of infection is so high is exposing education sector workers to serious risk of ill-health and could fuel the pandemic.

    "Unions have called for a pause in the reopening of schools for anyone other than vulnerable children and children of key workers, and a move to remote learning for all while Covid-secure working arrangements are reviewed. All school staff continuing to work in schools should be given priority access to Covid-19 vaccinations.

    "Instead of casually asserting that schools are safe, the Prime Minister should sit down with unions to discuss a joint approach to ensuring safe working arrangements in all schools and prioritising enabling all pupils to have the equipment and access they need to receive a high standard of remote learning until the safety of them and the staff in their school can be guaranteed."

  • John Hall


    Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was a "vital step" in the fight against coronavirus.

    He tweeted: "Delighted that today we roll out the @UniofOxford / @AstraZeneca vaccine across the whole UK.

    "It's a vital step in our fight against this pandemic. This is a national mission. Thank you to everyone involved."

  • John Hall


    Holyrood has been recalled to discuss further measures due to "a rapid increase in Covid cases" causing "very serious concerns".

    First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is to meet her government on Monday morning after fears were raised about how rapidly the new strain of coronavirus is spreading.

    The Cabinet is expected to discuss any additional measures that may be required to reduce the transmission of coronavirus, ahead of a debate in Parliament.

    In a series of tweets, Ms Sturgeon said: "Following a meeting of the Scottish government resilience committee yesterday to assess latest situation, the Cabinet will meet tomorrow am to consider further action to limit spread and I've asked for Scottish Parliament to be recalled tomorrow afternoon so that I can set out our decisions in a statement."

  • John Hall


    The first of 530,000 Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs will be dished out today — a vital shot in the arm in Britain’s Covid fight.

    Boris Johnson pledged to vaccinate tens of millions within three months and said: “We can see how we are going to get out of this with great clarity now.”

    Five thousand troops will begin “Operation Freedom” — with 530,000 Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs ready to roll out in the war on coronavirus.

    Hospitals at six NHS trusts across London, Brighton, Oxford, Morecambe and Nuneaton will be the first to give the vaccine.

    It will reach more than 500 GP surgeries and community centres by the end of the week — with PM Boris Johnson saying “we are going as fast as we can”

  • John Hall


    South African Covid variant ‘spreads faster’ than UK mutant strain

    The new mutant strain of coronavirus from South Africa could be resistant to the vaccine, an expert has warned.

    Sir John Bell said a "big question mark" remains over whether the super-infectious new strain can be prevented with the vaccines being rolled out across the world, but added if that was the case it would not take long to develop an effective one.

    The Oxford University scientist also said the South Africa strain is "more worrying" than a mutant strain discovered in the southeast of England because it is more infectious.

    He told Times Radio: "The mutations associated with the South African form are really pretty substantial changes in the structure of the protein."

    He added: "I think it's unlikely that these mutations will turn off the effects of vaccines entirely – I think they'll still have a residual effect.

    "It might take a month, or six weeks, to get a new vaccine, so everybody should stay calm. It's going to be fine"

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