Covid LIVE: Panic erupts on new super variant with 32 mutations – vaccine escape fears

WHO expert warns of 'over 500k' Covid deaths in Europe by Spring

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The B.1.1.529 strain has been found in South Africa, Botswana, and Hong Kong but scientists fear more infections will spread through international travel. The new variant, which has 32 spike mutations was identified by Tom Peacock, a virologist a Imperial College London who described the mutations as “really awful” and “horrific”.

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Push to get booster vaccine before Christmas

The Department of Health and Social Care has urged people to get their booster vaccine by December 11 to give them “very high protection against Covid-19 by Christmas Day”. 

Research has shown that two weeks after a booster, people have a very high level of protection from getting a symptomatic case. 

It comes as 16 of the UK’s biggest charities encourage vulnerable people to take up the offer of the jab. 

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “With winter approaching, it’s so important that those who are at risk from the virus are protected in order to keep themselves safe.

“The vaccines are safe and effective and are helping us build a wall of defence against Covid-19. Please come forward for yours as soon as you can.”

So far about 16 million people have had a booster vaccine across Britain. 

Concerns over international travel spreading ‘super variant’

The first case of the B.1.1.529 strain found in Hong Kong was from a person who had recently travelled to South Africa. 

This is fueling concerns that the new variant, with an “extremely high” number of mutations, could be spread through international travel.

The Hong Kong case was a 36-year-old man who returned from Hong Kong on November 11 when he tested negative on arrival but went on to test positive at a quarantine hotel. 

Scientists believe it is too soon to tell whether there is a link to the new “super variant” after a spike in cases in South Africa.

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