Complete control over international variants “almost impossible” says scientist

Rebecca Speare-Cole
·2 min read
Some people wait and some people arrive in the arrivals area at Heathrow Airport, in London, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. The UK closed all travel corridors from Monday morning to protect against the coronavirus with travellers entering the country from overseas required to have proof of a negative COVID-19 test. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Some people wait and some people arrive in the arrivals area at Heathrow Airport. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Gaining complete control over international COVID-19 variants coming into the UK is “almost impossible,” a top scientist has said.

Professor Peter Horby, who chairs the Government's New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said on Saturday that certain measures could help slow down the spread of new strains but would not completely stop them moving around.

It comes as Boris Johnson announced that the variant first detected in the UK in December could be 30% more deadly than the initial virus.

More and more variants have been reported by countries across the world, including South Africa, Brazil and the US.

Read: The 32 areas of England where new COVID cases are still increasing

England’s chief science officer Sir Patrick Vallance told a Downing Street Press conference on Friday that the virus is going to be around forever but it will eventually be controlled.

Watch: COVID-19: UK coronavirus variant may be more deadly than original virus

Meanwhile, Hornby told BBC Breakfast on Saturday that data from other countries such as Brazil and South Africa suggested other variants were more resistant to vaccines but that it was "still early days".

He said: "The variants are a concern... I think complete control of variants moving around the world is going to be almost impossible but we know that certain measures can slow the movement of these viruses around the world.”

"Certainly measures like stricter quarantines and putting people in hotels for long periods will have an impact and it's up to the Government to decide whether they think the imposition of those is worth the benefits they're likely to see."

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 17: Travelers arrive at Heathrow Airport on January 17, 2021 in London, England. Tomorrow morning the UK will close its so-called "travel corridors" with countries from which arriving travelers were exempt from quarantine requirements. People flying into the UK will now be required to quarantine for 10 days unless they test negative for covid-19 after five days, or unless they qualify for a business-travel exemption. (Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)
Travelers arrive at Heathrow Airport on January 17, 2021 in London. (Getty)

Horby added that the UK would be safer "from a scientific point of view" if more measures were put in place.

However, he said that it was "encouraging" that the UK coronavirus variant did not appear to be more resistant to current treatments before urging them to continue to follow the rules after receiving the jab.

"A vaccine is not a passport to do what you like, especially after one dose... it takes a while for protection to set in," he said.

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"So don't think you've got a free pass, we've still all got to adhere to the restrictions whether we're vaccinated or not.

"The encouraging news is that the UK variant is not affecting how the treatments work and it's not affecting how the vaccines work so we believe the vaccines and the treatment are just as good against this virus as they've always been."

Watch: COVID-19: Matt Hancock says South African variant could reduce vaccine efficacy by half