UK must 'keep South African covid variant at bay' warns expert
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This week, experts warned several EU member states are at the start of a third wave of the pandemic. Germany and Italy recorded the biggest rise of COVID-19 cases in two months and France introduced new lockdown measures yesterday.
Now, Sir John Bell, the Oxford University’s regius professor of medicine, lashed out at the bloc claiming they are “completely hopeless” with combating strains of the virus.
He said: “They’re hopeless.
“It’s really not going well in Europe.”
According to figures from the French Government, around 3,000 coronavirus patients were found to have the South African variant.
In comparison, the UK had around 259 recorded cases of the variant from South Africa.
This week, Italian health minister Roberto Speranza claimed more than half of new infections were being driven by the UK variant.
He said: “The situation is not simple.
“The UK variant spreads 35 to 40 percent faster and represents 54 percent of total cases.
“The South African variant is also present, especially in the Bolzano area, and the Brazilian one is mostly in central Italy.”
Adam Niedzielski, Poland’s health minister, also claimed the UK variant was responsible for the majority of new infections.
While there is no data yet on whether the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines work against the variant, Sir John said Britain’s biggest risk is the variant entering from the continent.
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He told the Sunday Telegraph: “We think the AstraZeneca vaccine is pretty good at reducing transmissions, but not with the South Africa strain.
“And I think the same will be true with Johnson and Pfizer and everybody else.
“I think our biggest risk in the UK will be that South Africa gets to us from the European continent, where there’s quite a lot of it now.”
While half of all adults in Britain have received the first dose of a vaccine, Sir John said having everybody vaccinated in the UK “does not solve the problem”.
He continued: “Everyone’s got to take a deep breath and realise we’re not there yet.
“We’ve got to lean into the global issue much more effectively, and get people vaccinated in the developing world and try to reduce transmissions everywhere.”
Today, Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling group, warned international travel this summer is “extremely unlikely”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think that international travel this summer is, for the average holidaymaker, sadly I think, extremely unlikely.
“I think we are running a real risk… because of the potential for bringing more of these new variants back into the country.
“What is really dangerous is if we jeopardise our vaccination campaign by having these variants where the vaccines don’t work as effectively spreading more rapidly.”
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