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But what about the new strain? 

Studies suggested the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine may be only 10 per cent effective against the South African strain, but Professor Jonathan Van Tam said the variant is not likely to become dominant.

The news comes as scientists have found that the Kent coronavirus variant is mutating to mimic the South African variant, which could render current vaccines less effective.

Surge testing in areas of Manchester, including Moss Side and Fallowfield, started from Feb 9 to combat the spread of the Kent variant, after four cases from two unconnected households were discovered. Door-to-door testing will take place for those who cannot attend testing centres, as well as offering tests to those who work in the area.

There have also been 55 cases of a new lineage in Liverpool which appears to be a mutation of the very early ‘A’ strain of the virus, which now carries E484K as well as other changes that could make it more transmissible. It has been designated as a “variant under investigation”.

However, Nick Loman, professor of microbial genomics and bioinformatics at the University of Birmingham, said it was unlikely that the new variants could out-compete the less dangerous UK variant.

How did coronavirus spread worldwide?

At the end of Dec 2019, the Chinese authorities sent out a public alert warning that a “pneumonia of unknown cause” had been identified in Wuhan, central China.

Some 10 days later, on Jan 7, scientists announced that a new coronavirus was the source of the outbreak – quickly adding that it then did not appear to be spreading between humans. 

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