New mutant Covid strain from Brazil is 'concerning', Boris says

The prime minister has said a new mutant strain of coronavirus originating in Brazil is ‘concerning’.

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt quizzed him at a session of the Liaison Committee, saying that yesterday NERVTAG talked about a new strain of the virus which has already escaped to Japan. 

Mr Johnson responded: ‘We are concerned about the new Brazilian variant.’

He continued: ‘We already have tough measures as you know to protect this country from new infections coming from abroad.

‘We’re taking steps to do that in respect of the Brazilian variant.

He said there remained many questions about the variant, including whether it would be resistant to the vaccines.

‘I think it’s fair to say there are lots of questions we still have about that variant and we don’t know for instance any more than we know from whether the South African variant is vaccine resistant,’ he said.

NERVTAG stands for the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group.

Its experts advise the government on the threat posed by new and emerging respiratory viruses.

The new strain was found in passengers who had flown from Brazil to Japan on January 2.

It has been reported to the World Health Organisation.

Also at the Liaison Committee, Mr Johnson warned that there was a ‘very substantial’ risk of intensive care units being overwhelmed.

He told MPs: ‘If you ask me when do we think that the ICU capacity is likely to be overtopped, I can’t give you a prediction for that.

‘But all I can say is that the risk is very substantial and we have to keep the pressure off the NHS and the only way to do that is to follow the current lockdown.”

He said ‘the situation is very, very tough indeed in the NHS’ and ‘the strain is colossal’ on staff.

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