BRITAIN has 77 cases of the deadly South African mutant Covid strain with potential hidden strains undetected, Matt Hancock warned today.
The Health Secretary revealed the cases are all connected to travel from the country and those infected are under close observation.
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Mr Hancock also warned nine cases of a Brazilian mutant strain have also been detected in the UK.
Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show on BBC1 today, he added: "There are 77 known cases of the South African variant here in the UK.
"They are under very close observation, and we have enhanced contact tracing to do everything we possibly can to stop them from spreading."
Mr Hancock said the known cases were people who had travelled from South Africa or had contact with someone else who had done so.
But he refused to say whether Britain's borders should be closed to protect people from new variants.
And he warned there should be "no parties in Paris or weekends in Dubai" during lockdown.
He said the two variants "might have a lower response to the vaccine" but said "we don't know the degree of that".
Speaking on Sky, Mr Hancock added: "The new variant I really worry about is the one that is out there that hasn't been spotted."
His warning comes just days after he revealed Covid vaccines may be 50 per cent less effective against the new mutant South African strain.
He said there was "evidence in the public domain" that the new variant is more resistant to jabs, but cautioned that scientists are still carrying out tests.
The MP said scientists are testing the mutant strain at the Porton Down lab and are carrying out a clinical trial in South Africa to see what effect it has on the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The Health Secretary added: "Nevertheless, if we'd vaccinated the population and then you got in a new variant that evaded the vaccine then we'd be back to square one.
"And so tougher international restrictions are the price that for instance Australia has paid for stronger domestic protection, as in more life getting back to normal domestically.
"With the new variants that we're seeing around the world, South Africa and Brazil are the two most worrying, but the third most worrying one is the one we don't know about because they haven't spotted it yet."
The Government is said to be considering imposing a ban on all passport-holders arriving into Britain from coronavirus hotspots after ministers were told a crackdown was needed.
Ministers will meet tomorrow to thrash out an action plan to keep out the deadly new strains discovered in South Africa and Brazil.
Boris Johnson is reportedly set to impose compulsory hotel quarantines for arrivals, including Brits, entering the country in the coming days.
One plan is to impose a ban on those travelling from Brazil and South Africa to stop them entering Britain, regardless of where they’ve previously visited, The Sunday Times reports.
And a new “selfie-isolation” rule is likely, which will require those in quarantine to send a daily picture proving they are staying indoors.
Currently foreign nationals who have been in a Covid hotspot for the previous 10 days can be turned away.
The PM said previously he wouldn't "rule out that we may need to take further measures" on restricting international travel to keep the South African variant out of Britain.
He added: "We may need to go further to protect our borders because we do not want, after all the effort we're going to in this country, to put that at risk by having a new variant come back in."
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