A new variant of the coronavirus has been identified in Britain and while Health Secretary Matt Hancock says it could be linked to a fast rise in cases, experts say people should remain calm. Hancock told lawmakers Monday that more than 1,000 cases of the new variant have been identified, and "it may be associated with the faster spread in the southeast of England," where COVID cases have been rising sharply," the Guardian reports. "I must stress at this point that there is currently nothing to suggest that this variant is more likely to cause serious disease, and the latest clinical advice is that it's highly unlikely that this mutation would fail to respond to a vaccine," Hancock said, per CNN.
Hancock said British scientists are researching the variant and the World Health Organization has been notified. He said that with infection rates in some areas doubling every seven days, London and a few neighboring areas will return to a stricter lockdown level this week. University of Birmingham expert Alan McNally tells the BBC that the variant was detected in recent weeks. "Let's not be hysterical. It doesn't mean it's more transmissible or more infectious or dangerous," he says. "It is something to keep an eye on." He adds: "Huge efforts are ongoing at characterizing the variant and understanding its emergence. It is important to keep a calm and rational perspective on the strain as this is normal virus evolution and we expect new variants to come and go and emerge over time." (Read more coronavirus stories.)