The Covid strain that has caused cases to rise dramatically in the UK has been found to be more than 50 per cent more infectious than other variants.
The new mutation is thought to be driving the surge of the virus in London and the south east of England, though it has also been found elsewhere in the UK.
What does this mean?
Data released by Public Health England (PHE) showed that people with the new mutant strain of coronavirus are 54 per cent more likely to pass it on to others.
The proportion of people who caught the new strain of the virus was 15.1 per cent. This was higher than the 9.8 per cent of people who tested positive for coronavirus after coming into contact with someone infected by a different variant.
The data also suggested that the number of all cases accounted for by the new virus mutation was up in all age groups.
PHE’s senior medical adviser, Dr Susan Hopkins, said, “Our investigations continue into a new strain of Sars-Cov-2, predominantly in the south and east of England.
“Preliminary evidence suggests that the new variant does not cause more severe disease or increased mortality but we are continuing our investigations to understand this better.
“The best way to stop infection, whatever the variant, is to stick to the rules - wash our hands, wear a face covering and keep our distance from others.”
Is the mutation more deadly?
The new mutation is more infectious, however, there is no evidence to suggest that it is more deadly.
There is also no evidence that the new strain is more infectious in children than other variants.
Rising infection figures in UK
The data released arrives as the UK recorded 53,135 more coronavirus cases on 29 December - a record daily high. A total of 414 deaths were also recorded.
The infection tally is the highest toll officially recorded by the Department of Health in a single 24 hour period.