A NIGERIAN Covid variant that could be even deadlier than the South African strain has sparked fears after a rise in cases in the UK, experts have warned.
The threat from new variants is one of the top priorities when it comes to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown.
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Variants of concern are a major worry when it comes to lifting lockdown restrictionCredit: Getty
A rise in cases in different strains could mean that restrictions are pushed back.
Cases of the virus have continued to fall in recent weeks and the number of people who have died with Covid has plunged almost 50 per cent in a month.
Another 45 deaths were recorded yesterday, with infections sinking 46 per cent month-on-month, after another 2,763 cases were reported on Wednesday.
The jabs rollout has been hailed for a fall in death rates and cases and so far in the UK over 31.7 million Brits have been given a first dose of either the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab and the Pfizer/BioNTech offering, with 5.6 million having had a second.
The Moderna jab also made its debut in Wales yesterday.
Despite cases falling and more people being protected, experts say variants of concern are rising.
In papers seen by the i, cases of the South African variant have risen in the last week – but it’s cases of the Nigerian variant that have seen the biggest rise.
The figures show that in the last week there have been more than 470 cases of B1351 (SA) compared to 400 cases the week before.
At the start of February there were thought to have been 150 cases.
Cases of the Nigerian variant, B1525 have more than doubled in the last month.
At the end of February there were 100 cases and at the end of March this was at 250 and experts say it is now around 300.
The reason experts are so worried about the Nigerian variant is due to its fatality rate in comparison to other strains.
It’s fatality rate is 4.3 per cent, while the South African variant is 2.2 and the Kent variant, 2.3.
Figures show that 12 people in the UK have died from the Nigerian strain, while nine have died from the South African variant.
One senior Sage source told the i: “If it can infect and transmit in vaccinated people, B1351 (SA) will increase in that population. It is slowly going up, but that might be because we are looking for it so hard.”
In recent months surge testing has been rolled out to catch variants of concern and stop transmission.
While figures from the Nigerian variant and South African variant are still lower than the Kent strain, which is accountable for 150,000 cases to date, experts say the other strains can spread widely and could try and evade jabs.
Foreign travel is still banned in the UK in order to stop variants coming into the country.
Experts have warned that if bans on travel are relaxed then we could make “the fatal mistakes of last summer”.
Professor Devi Shridhar, chair of global public health at Edinburgh University this week said: Why are we focused on holidays abroad? It feels like we are repeating the mistakes of last summer.
“We have just got schools back open, we are just getting pubs and hospitality back on their feet, let’s focus on a full domestic recovery.
“Getting back to some normal daily life within the country and then we can look at getting aviation going.
“I’m afraid if we accelerate too quickly then there could potentially be another lockdown, and no one wants another lockdown, we can’t do this again.”
Mr Johnson has refused to confirm when foreign holidays will resume, but a traffic light system was revealed this week.
Different countries are set to be graded green, amber or red according to their vaccinations, infection rates, the prevalence of variants of concern, and their genomic sequencing capacity.
Mr Johnson insisted he is desperate to “get the country flying again” but said families should wait before booking a foreign getaway.
During the press conference this week he added: “We are hopeful we can get going from May 17, but I do not wish to underestimate the difficulty we are seeing in some destinations people might want to go to.
“We don’t want to see the virus being reimported from abroad.”