London — Britain has detected a new variant of the coronavirus in contacts of cases who have travelled from SA, health secretary Matt Hancock said on Wednesday.

The health department said last week that a new genetic mutation of the virus had been found and might be responsible for a recent surge in infections in SA.

“Thanks to the impressive genomic capability of the South Africans, we’ve detected two cases of another new variant of coronavirus here in the UK,” Hancock told a media briefing.

“Both are contacts of cases who have travelled from SA over the past few weeks.”

Britain is already battling to curb the spread of a mutated strain of the virus, which is up to 70% more transmissible, and Hancock said the new variant appears to have mutated further and is more infectious.

He said close contacts of those with the new variant are being quarantined and all those who had been in SA in the past fortnight also need to quarantine.

He also said immediate restrictions were being imposed on travel from SA. 


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