Health Desk- 23 Dec 2020: Authorities of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on 14 December reported to WHO that a new SARS-CoV-2 variant was identified through viral genomic sequencing.
This variant is referred to as SARS-CoV-2 VUI 202012/01 (Variant Under Investigation, year 2020, month 12, variant 01). Initial analysis indicates that the variant may spread more readily between people. Investigations are ongoing to determine if this variant is associated with any changes in the severity of symptoms, antibody response or vaccine efficacy.
The variant was picked up as part of an epidemiological and virological investigation initiated earlier in December 2020 following an unexpected rise in COVID-19 cases in South East England. It was characterized by a more than three-fold increase in the 14-day case notification rate from epidemiological week 41 to week 50 (5 October to 13 December 2020). On average, between 5 – 10% of all SARS-CoV-2 viruses have routinely been sequenced in the United Kingdom and 4% routinely sequenced in South East England since the beginning of the pandemic.