WHO discusses new coronavirus strain circulating in U.K.

World Health Organization officials held a press conference Monday to discuss mutations in the coronavirus that are responsible for new strains in both South Africa and the UK.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the new strain of the virus spread across the UK is more contagious, but there is no evidence that it is more deadly. He said that containing the transmission of the coronavirus is key - the more ways the virus has to spread, the more ways it has to mutate.
The new strain of the virus in the UK caused dozen of countries in the European Union and around the world to close their borders to travelers out of the country and tighten restrictions on staying at home for UK officials.
Epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical director on coronavirus, said UK researchers are studying transmission rates for the new strain and are seeing an increase. The researchers are also investigating whether the variant leads to more severe cases of COVID-19 or more deaths, and so far have seen no signs of it, as well as the antibody response to the new strain.
While the coronavirus is nowhere near as contagious as the mumps or measles viruses, someone with the new UK strain could infect an average of 1.5 other people, rather than the 1.1 average for the previous strain of coronavirus. That said, the virus could spread faster. British officials told WHO that it may have been in circulation as early as September.
What we know about the new strain of coronavirus in the UK
Dr. Mike Ryan, the executive director of the WHO's health emergencies program, said there was no evidence that the variant "will change the value of vaccines in the future," but rather in response to a question asked by Pamela Falk of CBS News at the press conference Ryan said : "This is being tested, but at first you don't know when to start."
The new variant in South Africa contains a mutation similar to the British strain, Van Kerkhove said, but is a separate variant.
In the UK, cases of COVID-19 are on the rise, limiting the expected relaxation of security measures for Christmas. More than 67,700 people have died from the virus in that country, according to Johns Hopkins University. 24,691 people have died in South Africa.
Nearly 77 million people around the world have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and nearly 1.7 million have died.
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