Joining Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid on the programme following the news that health officials are urgently testing people in areas across England after it emerged the variant may have started spreading in the community, the television doctor highlighted the strain could have a knock-on effect on the government’s vaccination programme.
‘We have a variant that is more transmissible and it is more dangerous,’ Dr Hilary began.
‘It could overwhelm the NHS again. It could put back the vaccination programme that’s been so successful.’
Dr Hilary also warned that people who have already had coronavirus could still catch this new variant.
‘Because it is more transmissible, it will spread more readily, and there are fears it could be a third more resistant to our current vaccinations, so that is a great concern,’ he added.
Caption: Dr Hilary says BAME community rejecting vaccine is ’extraordinary’ and calls for better education
‘And that’s why 80,000 people are being asked to come forward and accept PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests to find out if it is more prevalent in those areas.’
In addition, Dr Hilary pointed out that it was ‘too late to bottle this one up’ and shutting the borders wouldn’t prevent the South African variant from spreading.
He said it was inevitable that there will be further strains of coronavirus in the future.
Sage member Professor Andrew Hayward said the South African strain has been identified in at least 30 countries around the world including Europe, America, and other parts of Africa.
On the effectiveness of vaccines, the professor of infectious disease epidemiology at University College London said: ‘Whilst you may have reduced effectiveness against preventing disease, quite often what happens with these vaccines is that they’ll still prevent against severe disease.
‘And so we would expect the vaccines to still be very worthwhile and very good at preventing severe disease.
‘Of course, we’ve got a lot staked on the effects of these vaccines, and that’s why I think it’s really appropriate to take every measure that we can to try and stop the emergence of the strain.’
Good Morning Britain airs weekdays at 6am on ITV.