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Coronavirus UK: Rail passengers in Tier 4 areas WILL get refunds after scrapping Xmas travel plans

Refunds for cancelled Christmas journeys: Who IS eligible? 

The Department for Transport says passengers who have been forced to cancel their domestic Christmas travel plans can get bookings refunded.

The compensation scheme applies to train and coach bookings only.

Who is eligible?

  • Anyone in Tier 4 who has cancelled train and coach bookings made in England for the previous Christmas travel window of December 23 to 27.
  • Tickets will only be refunded if they were purchased between November 24 and before the travel window was amended on December 19. 

Passengers in Tier 4 regions who have been forced to scrap their Christmas travel plans will get their train and coach bookings refunded, the Government announced today.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said customers will not be ‘left out of pocket’ for ‘doing the right thing’ by binning their family reunions as a ‘mutant’ strain of coronavirus spreads through the country. 

The Department for Transport (DfT) said cash refunds will be provided for cancelled rail and coach bookings in England for the previous Christmas travel window of December 23 to 27. 

Tickets will only be refunded if they were purchased between November 24 and before the travel window was amended on December 19 – meaning people who now pay for tickets and are stopped by police from leaving Tier 4 regions will not be compensated.

People who planned on flying back home are also not included in the Government’s refund scheme, after major airlines including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic revealed they will not refund cancelled trips for the end of the year. 

The DfT compensation plan also does not apply to people living in areas outside of Tier 4 in England, and for people living in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

It comes as millions of Christmas plans have been left in tatters after Boris Johnson effectively cancelled the winter holiday for nearly 18 million people in London and much of southern England. 

Passengers are advised to check their train operator’s website for how to claim. 

In a statement, Mr Shapps said: ‘It is imperative that we all follow the new measures and play our part in tackling this virus, protecting others and safeguarding our NHS.

‘If you booked a coach or rail journey between 23 and 27 December, you are entitled to a cash refund. This ensures no-one is left out of pocket for doing the right thing – staying home in Tier 4, and elsewhere staying local and only meeting your Christmas bubble on Christmas Day.’ 

Matt Hancock had said yesterday that the Government is looking into compensating people who have had to scrap their travel plans.  

He also warned that police would stop people from leaving London as extra officers have been deployed at train stations across the capital as Londoners try to flee the city to spend December 25 with loved ones.

Mr Shapps also said extra British Transport Police officers would be deployed at London’s railway stations to prevent ‘non-essential’ journeys. 

Masked police patrolled King’s Cross, St Pancras, Waterloo and Euston stations after scenes emerged at the weekend of big queues of Londoners taking trains north and west to escape the brutal new Tier 4.

In other coronavirus news: 

  • Germany, France, Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Austria suspended travel from Britain, trying to protect themselves from the new strain;
  • France also banned British freight lorries, adding to the chaos at Channel ports;
  • Mr Hancock refused to rule out the closure of schools, which are already facing delays to next term;
  • Tory sources confirmed Tier Four travel curbs mean the Prime Minister will spend Christmas in Downing Street, rather than his country retreat Chequers;
  • In a rare bright spot, the number vaccinated hit around 500,000 last night;
  • Officials voiced hopes that the Oxford jab could be approved this week;
  • Mr Hancock condemned ‘totally irresponsible’ travellers who piled on to trains out of London on Saturday night before Tier Four came in;
  • British Transport Police stepped up patrols to stop residents leaving London and South East;
  • Scottish police doubled patrols along the border after Nicola Sturgeon imposed a ban on arrivals from England;
  • Business leaders called for more support, amid warnings that tens of thousands of jobs could go;
  • Lockdown-busting scientist Neil Ferguson has been quietly reinstated as a Government adviser and was involved in the Christmas shutdown decision;
  • A YouGov poll found 67 per cent back the Christmas curbs but 61 per cent think the Government has handled the situation badly;
  • Labour’s Keir Starmer called on Mr Johnson to apologise for ‘indecision and weak leadership’ over Christmas rules;
  • Wales went into lockdown for the third time, meaning 21million UK residents are now under the toughest restrictions.

People at Euston station, London, yesterday as London was moved into Tier 4

People wait on the concourse at Paddington Station in London on Saturday as people scramble to get out of London before Tier 4 rules come into power at midnight

People wait on the concourse at Paddington Station in London on Saturday as people scramble to get out of London before Tier 4 rules come into power at midnight

People sitting masked in Euston Station today while waiting for trains to take them out of Tier 4 London in time for Christmas

People sitting masked in Euston Station today while waiting for trains to take them out of Tier 4 London in time for Christmas

Police outside Kings Cross Underground Station as the capital is plunged into Tier 4

Police outside Kings Cross Underground Station as the capital is plunged into Tier 4

A member of BTP patrols the main concourse at Waterloo Station in London yesterday

A member of BTP patrols the main concourse at Waterloo Station in London yesterday

People go through barriers to catch trains at Paddington Station in London. The introduction of the new tier seeks to curb a new more infectious strain of the virus, Boris Johnson explained during a press briefing on Saturday

People go through barriers to catch trains at Paddington Station in London. The introduction of the new tier seeks to curb a new more infectious strain of the virus, Boris Johnson explained during a press briefing on Saturday

People in Euston Station are seen sitting down waiting for their trains to other parts of England as Tier 4 comes into force

People in Euston Station are seen sitting down waiting for their trains to other parts of England as Tier 4 comes into force

 

It comes as millions of Christmas plans have been left in tatters after Boris Johnson effectively cancelled the winter holiday for nearly 18 million people in London and much of southern England by placing those regions into Tier 4 coronavirus restrictions

It comes as millions of Christmas plans have been left in tatters after Boris Johnson effectively cancelled the winter holiday for nearly 18 million people in London and much of southern England by placing those regions into Tier 4 coronavirus restrictions 

Which parts of the country are in Tier 4?

Kent

Buckinghamshire

Berkshire

Surrey (excluding Waverley)

The boroughs of Gosport, Havant, Portsmouth, Rother and Hastings

All 32 London boroughs and the city of London.

Bedford, Central Bedfordshire, Milton Keynes, Luton, Peterborough

Hertfordshire

Essex (excluding Colchester, Uttlesford and Tendring).

The Health Secretary hit out at the ‘totally irresponsible’ Londoners, while the Met Police warned the ‘most dangerous and flagrant breaches’ of Tier 4 regulations now in force will see fines given out.

In a round of TV interviews yesterday, Mr Hancock told people living in London and parts of the South and East of England living in the toughest tier regime to ‘unpack their bags’ and ‘reduce social contact’.

Under the new Tier 4 rules non-essential shops – as well as gyms, cinemas, casinos and hairdressers – have to stay shut and people are limited to meeting one other person from another household in an outdoor public space.

Those in Tier 4 were told they should not travel out of the region, while those outside were advised against visiting. In the rest of England, Christmas easing has been severely curtailed, with households allowed to gather for just one day – Christmas Day itself – rather than the five days previously planned.    

Wales has also announced it is going into a full lockdown and will follow suit by slashing bubbles to a single day. Nicola Sturgeon said at her own press conference that a ban on cross-border travel is being upgraded, and the law will be changed to cut bubbles to one day.  

Within 90 minutes of the PM’s bombshell announcement, Londoners were jumping into cars and taxis and even hiring vehicles to escape the city before Tier 4 came into force, the AA told the Mail on Sunday.

Its president Edmund King called the fleeing a ‘mini exodus’, adding: ‘It is almost like a wall is coming down around London and the South East and some people are scrambling to get away to save their Christmas before midnight.’ 

Italy becomes the FIFTH country to spot mutated Covid virus after infected British traveller flew to Rome – as France admits it’s ‘entirely possible’ it has cases too 

Italy has detected a patient infected with the mutated strain of coronavirus that emerged in Britain, becoming the fifth country outside the UK to report a case.

The Italian patient flew from the UK to Rome in the last few days with his partner, who did not test positive, Italy’s health ministry said. The pair are now isolating.

So far, cases of the new variant, said to be up to 70 per cent more infectious than regular Covid, have been spotted in Denmark, the Netherlands, Australia and Belgium.

In November there were nine instances of the strain in Denmark and one in Australia, while the Netherlands announced it had detected a case this month. There have also been unconfirmed reports of at least one case in Belgium.

Scotland and Wales have both picked up cases of the strain in recent weeks, although it is spreading predominantly in London and the South East of England, where it’s thought to account for 60 per cent of all new infections.

France’s health minister said this morning it was ‘entirely possible’ the version of the virus was already circulating in France despite tests not picking it up yet, while Northern Ireland’s First Minister said it was ‘probable’ the strain was there, too.

More than a dozen countries – including France, Germany, Italy, Ireland and Canada – have banned travel to and from the UK as part of an international crackdown to contain the mutant strain. 

European Union leaders are holding a crisis meeting later today to unify the bloc’s response to prevent the variant becoming more widespread on the continent. 

There are now fears Britain’s supermarket shelves could soon stand empty with France’s ban on British lorries set to stop Continental hauliers bringing in vital festive food supplies. 

There are also concerns that the chaos could disrupt supplies of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to the UK which is made in Belgium – with military aircraft set to airlift supplies if the ban lasts for longer than 48 hours.  

Northerners warned against Londoners fleeing the capital after videos and photos appeared on social media which showed long queues in St Pancras Station. 

Branding it the ‘last train out of Saigon’ – a reference to the evacuation of US personnel during the Vietnam War – journalist Harriet Clugston wrote: ‘Every person on this train including myself has made what is probably a very silly and irresponsible decision to travel albeit within the law.

‘But that’s what people were always going to do to be together at Christmas.’  

An announcement warned passengers that it would not be possible to maintain social distancing on the train. 

Poppy Wood, 25, rushed to King’s Cross station to board a 7.30pm train before the restrictions were imposed. She said: ‘What a disaster. I’m so angry at the Government – the whole thing has been shockingly handled.’

Miss Wood, who was travelling to her parents’ home in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, with her brother and her boyfriend, said the station was ‘surprisingly socially distanced but very sombre’. ‘Everyone is just looking up at the screens quite longingly,’ she added.

‘It’s not panicked at all – it’s very calm. I think the threat has become very real and people are actually quite nervous, which hasn’t been the case for a while in London.

‘I was meant to be doing all my Christmas shopping today but with everything going on I hadn’t got anything done. I have just ransacked every shop in the station to get both my boyfriend and my brother a Christmas present.’ 

Social media sites were flooded with people voicing their anger at having their Christmas travel arrangements torpedoed.

‘I’m beyond furious,’ said Londoner Michael Wood, 25, who has had to cancel Christmas with his parents in Norfolk. ‘The Government should have provided more forward guidance, rather than cancelling Christmas with four days to go.

‘It’s easy to say we’ll get through it but not when you’re on your own in a shoebox apartment.’

Rose Wilford, who also lives on her own in London, has been isolating for the last seven days and was planning on travelling back to her parents in Worcestershire for Christmas.

‘Now that the tier 4 has come into place I’m not able to travel and will have to spend Christmas on my own,’ she said.

‘This year has been particularly hard on my mental health and to find out that I have to spend Christmas on my own is devastating.’  

Meanwhile British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have revealed they will not be offering refunds to passengers who cancel trips for the end of the year following the new restrictions.  

The Virgin Atlantic Twitter account posted: ‘Refunds are only permitted for cancelled flights. If you have booked with us directly, you have the option to rebook for a new travel date up until 31 December 2022.

‘If you have booked with a third party, please contact them directly for your options.’

British Airways customer Lisa Hunter tweeted at the airline saying: ‘Just been moved into Tier 4 yet just been told on phone we cannot have a refund for flights booked for over xmas as ”the flight isn’t cancelled”.

‘It’s now illegal to travel out of Tier 4 areas so surely this cannot be the case? Heathrow is in Tier 4!’

People in Euston Station are seen sitting down waiting for their trains to other parts of England as Tier 4 comes into force

People in Euston Station are seen sitting down waiting for their trains to other parts of England as Tier 4 comes into force

People wearing face masks stand waiting for their trains at London's King's Cross Station as the capital moves into Tier 4

People wearing face masks stand waiting for their trains at London’s King’s Cross Station as the capital moves into Tier 4

Furious Northerners blasted ‘selfish’ Londoners who fled the capital last night to avoid spending Christmas in a brutal new Tier 4 lockdown, amid fears they will spread the ‘mutant’ strain of coronavirus across the country. Twitter users from the North and West today slammed large crowds queueing on a packed platform at London’s St Pancras Station to board the last train to Leeds, calling them ‘irresponsible’, ‘b******s’ and ‘plague rats’

Covid cases hit a daily record of 35,928 yesterday – almost double the previous week. There were also 326 deaths, up from 144 a week earlier

Covid cases hit a daily record of 35,928 yesterday – almost double the previous week. There were also 326 deaths, up from 144 a week earlier

Tier Four until EASTER: ‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson warns draconian measures may be needed for months 

Millions of families face living under draconian Tier Four restrictions until Easter, according to the scientist whose grim modelling spooked No10 into sending Britain into its first lockdown back in March. 

‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson, an Imperial College London epidemiologist who quit his role as a Government adviser after breaking rules to see his married lover, today claimed the harshest curbs could ‘possibly’ have to stay until the spring and admitted Britain was now in a race to vaccinate people.  

He warned Britain’s situation was ‘not looking optimistic right now’. It comes after Matt Hancock yesterday warned the Tier Four restrictions could be extended nationwide, after the Health Secretary said the virus was now ‘out of control’ following the emergence of a fast-spreading new variant.

Boris Johnson sparked fury on Saturday night after he cancelled Christmas for more than 16million people living in London and across the South East. Shops, gyms, hairdressers and beauty salons were ordered to shut again, with residents told not to leave Tier Four.

In his embarrassing U-turn, the Prime Minister – who last week claimed it would be ‘inhuman’ to cancel Christmas – also slashed a festive amnesty from five days to just one for the rest of the UK. 

It comes after it was revealed yesterday that Professor Ferguson played a major role in researching the variant that triggered the dramatic cancellation of Christmas. He was among those attending a meeting of Nervtag – the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group – to discuss the new mutant strain on Friday.

The Imperial expert said it was now a simple race to ‘get vaccines in people’s arms’ because the virus couldn’t be stopped any other way. And a colleague of his, infectious diseases expert Professor Wendy Barclay, said it was possible that if the virus mutates enough the immunity produced by vaccines might not work, although there is no proof that this is true of the new strain.

Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine is being rolled out rapidly but it is complicated because it must be kept in specialist freezers. Regulators now face pressure to approve England’s own vaccine made by Oxford University and AstraZeneca – a decision is expected within the next week. Another completed vaccine by US company Moderna, which trials showed was 94.5 per cent effective, has been pre-ordered by the UK but won’t be available until the spring.

Dozens of countries have all already banned travel from Britain over fears the mutated strain of coronavirus could spread, with France last night causing chaos over the last minute decision to shut the border. Mr Johnson will hold crisis talks with Ministers today as he chairs the Government’s Cobra committee amid warnings of ‘significant disruption’ around the Channel ports in Kent. 

BA replied: ‘Hi Lisa, flights are continuing to operate, as essential travel is still permitted. We’re afraid a full refund is only permitted if your flight is cancelled.’

A BA spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘Customers who are unable to travel, or choose not to, can continue to change their flights or request a voucher for future use as part of our Book with Confidence policy, which has been available since the beginning of the pandemic.

As always, if a customer’s flight is cancelled they are entitled to a full refund or a voucher, and we always contact any customers whose flights may be affected to discuss their options.’

A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson told MailOnline: ”We understand the difficulties that Covid-19 and Tier 4 restrictions pose to some of our customers. 

‘Where a customer is unable to travel for any reason, we offer as much choice and flexibility as possible to help them change or amend their plans, with a name change and two date change fees waived for a new travel date up until 31 December 2022. 

‘Where a flight is cancelled, customers are of course entitled to a full cash refund.’ 

Rival airline EasyJet said that it would be offering refunds for those who were staying home.

A spokesperson said: ‘EasyJet plans to fly its current schedule over the coming days, however, following the UK Government’s announcement implementing Tier 4 restrictions which includes advice against travelling abroad, we understand some customers may now need to change their flights.

‘Impacted customers in Tier 4 areas have the option of transferring to an alternative flight free of charge, receiving a voucher or receiving a refund. This policy applies to any flights up until 30 December.

‘All other customers can make changes to their booking without incurring a change fee up to 14 days before departure online via Manage Bookings at easyJet.com.’ 

Which? consumer rights expert Adam French said: ‘These new restrictions will cause massive travel disruption and chaos, leaving many peoples’ festive plans in tatters.

‘If you’ve forked out on money for a train ticket and have to stay put you should be able to cancel the trip and get your money back.

‘Rail operators should be as accommodating as possible by allowing passengers the flexibility to use tickets or issuing them refunds if they can’t travel at another time.’ 

It comes as the scientist whose grim modelling spooked No10 into sending Britain into its first lockdown back in March warned that millions of families face living under draconian Tier Four restrictions until Easter. 

‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson, an Imperial College London epidemiologist who quit his role as a Government adviser after breaking rules to see his married lover, today claimed the harshest curbs could ‘possibly’ have to stay until the spring and admitted Britain was now in a race to vaccinate people.  

He warned Britain’s situation was ‘not looking optimistic right now’. It comes after Matt Hancock yesterday warned the Tier 4 restrictions could be extended nationwide, after the Health Secretary said the virus was now ‘out of control’ following the emergence of a fast-spreading new variant.  

It comes after it was revealed yesterday that Professor Ferguson played a major role in researching the variant that triggered the dramatic cancellation of Christmas. 

He was among those attending a meeting of Nervtag – the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group – to discuss the new mutant strain on Friday.

The Imperial expert said it was now a simple race to ‘get vaccines in people’s arms’ because the virus couldn’t be stopped any other way. 

And a colleague of his, infectious diseases expert Professor Wendy Barclay, said it was possible that if the virus mutates enough the immunity produced by vaccines might not work, although there is no proof that this is true of the new strain.

Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine is being rolled out rapidly but it is complicated because it must be kept in specialist freezers. 

Regulators now face pressure to approve England’s own vaccine made by Oxford University and AstraZeneca – a decision is expected within the next week. 

Another completed vaccine by US company Moderna, which trials showed was 94.5 per cent effective, has been pre-ordered by the UK but won’t be available until the spring.

Dozens of countries have all already banned travel from Britain over fears the mutated strain of coronavirus could spread, with France last night causing chaos over the last minute decision to shut the border. 

Mr Johnson will hold crisis talks with Ministers today as he chairs the Government’s Cobra committee amid warnings of ‘significant disruption’ around the Channel ports in Kent.

QUESTIONS ANSWERED ON NEW COVID MUTATION: HOW DID IT HAPPEN, IS IT MORE DANGEROUS AND HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN IN THE UK?

By David Churchill

What has happened to the coronavirus to trigger such concern?

A new strain of Covid has developed which is said to spread far faster. A ‘strain’ is a new version of a virus which has genetic mutations. The new strain is a version of Sars-Cov-2, the coronavirus which causes the disease Covid-19.

It has been named VUI-202012/01. These letters and numbers stand for ‘variant under investigation’ and the month, December 2020.

What makes it so worrying?

This particular variant is defined by up to 17 changes or mutations in the coronavirus spike protein. It is the combination of some of these changes which scientists believe could make it more infectious.

It is thought they could help the virus’ spike protein latch on to human cells and gain entry more easily.

Is it certain the new variation is accelerating the spread of the virus?

No, but scientists say preliminary evidence suggests it does.

Boris Johnson said it may spread up to 70 per cent more easily than other strains of the virus, potentially driving up the ‘R rate’ – which measures how quickly the virus spreads – significantly.

On Saturday night, Mr Johnson said it could drive up the ‘R rate’ by as much as 0.4.

This would be particularly significant in areas such as Eastern England, where it is 1.4, and both London and the South East, where it is 1.3. The ‘R rate’ must remain below 1 for infections to decrease.

Is the new variant more dangerous?

Scientists don’t think so for now. When asked on Saturday night if it was more lethal than the previous strain, Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said ‘the answer seems to be ‘No’, as far as we can tell at the moment’.

Yesterday Dr Susan Hopkins, of Public Health England, said there was evidence of people with the new variant having higher viral loads inside them.

But she said this did not mean people would get more ill.

Ravi Gupta, professor of clinical microbiology at the University of Cambridge, said: ‘It’s unlikely it’ll make people sicker, but it could make it harder to control.’

If it does make the virus harder to control and hospitals become overrun, it could pose new challenges.

Are mutations unusual?

No. Seasonal influenza mutates every year. Variants of Sars-Cov-2 have also been observed in other countries, such as Spain.

However, one scientific paper suggests the number and combination of changes which have occurred in this new variant is potentially ‘unprecedented’.

Most mutations observed to date are thought to have happened more slowly. Also, most changes have no effect on how easily the virus spreads.

There are already about 4,000 mutations in the spike protein gene.

What has caused the mutation?

This is still being investigated. One theory is that growing natural immunity in the UK population, which makes it harder for the virus to spread, might have forced it to adapt.

Another theory is that it has developed in chronically ill patients who have fought the virus off over a long period of time, with it then being passed onto others.

Prof Paul Hunter, Professor in Medicine at the University of East Anglia, yesterday said it was ‘plausible’ and ‘highly likely’ this has happened.

However, he stressed it is impossible to prove at the moment.

What evidence is there to support the latter theory?

Some evidence supporting it was spotted when samples of virus were collected from a Cambridge patient. They had been treated with convalescent plasma – blood plasma containing antibodies from a recovered patient.

It is possible the virus mutated during that treatment, developing more resistance to the antibodies. This patient died of the infection, but it’s also possible the mutation has occurred elsewhere.

A paper co-authored by Andrew Rambaut, Professor of Molecular Evolution at the University of Edinburgh, states: ‘If antibody therapy is administered after many weeks of chronic infection, the virus population may be unusually large and genetically diverse…creating suitable circumstances for the rapid fixation of multiple virus genetic changes.’

Professor Hunter added: ‘Mutation in viruses are a random event and the longer someone is infected the more likely a random event is to occur.’

What do these mutations do?

Many occur in what’s called the ‘receptor binding domain’ of the virus’ spike protein. This helps the virus latch on to human cells and gain entry. The mutations make it easier for the virus to bind to human cells’ ACE2 receptors.

It is also possible the changes help the virus avoid human antibodies which would otherwise help fight off infection.

Who detected it?

It was discovered by the Covid-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium, which carries out random genetic sequencing of positive covid-19 samples.

It is a consortium of the UK’s four public health agencies, Wellcome Sanger Institute and 12 academic institutions.

How long has it been in the UK and where did it start?

As of mid-December, there were more than 1,000 cases in nearly 60 different local authorities, although the true number will be higher.

They have predominantly been found in the south east of England, in Kent and London. It may now account for 60 per cent of the capital’s cases.

But it has been detected elsewhere, including in Wales and Scotland.

The two earliest samples were collected on September 20 in Kent and another the next day in London.

Why was action to tackle it not taken sooner?

Because the potentially greater transmissibility was only discovered late last week by academics.

Has it been detected anywhere else in the world?

One aspect of the new variant, known as a N501Y mutation, was circulating in Australia between June and July, in America in July and in Brazil as far back as April, according to scientists.

It is therefore unclear what role, if any, travellers carrying the virus may have had.

Dr Julian Tang, a Virologist and expert in Respiratory science at the University of Leicester, said: ‘Whether or not these viruses were brought to the UK and Europe later by travellers or arose spontaneously in multiple locations around the world – in response to human host immune selection pressures – requires further investigation.’

Another change, known as the D614G variant, has previously been detected in western Europe and North America. But it is possible that the new variant evolved in the UK.

What can I do to avoid getting the new variant?

The same as always – keeping your distance from people, washing your hands regularly, wearing a mask and abiding by the tier restrictions in your area.

Yesterday Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the British Medical Association, said: ‘The way in which you control the spread of the virus, including this new variant, is exactly the same. It is about continuing stringent measures. The same rules apply.’

Will the new variant reduce the effectiveness of vaccines?

More studies are needed.

Dr Susan Hopkins, of Public Health England, said that until these are carried out scientists cannot be certain whether – and by how much – the new variant reduces the effectiveness of developed vaccines.

She said: ‘The vaccine induces a strong, multiple response, immune response and therefore it is unlikely that this vaccine response is going to be completely gone.’ When mutations happen it is, in theory, possible the antibodies generated by vaccines can be evaded.

But vaccines produce a wide range of antibodies that simultaneously attack the virus from different angles, making it hard for it to evade all of them at once.

Vaccines could also be tweaked to make them more effective if the new mutation does prove to be more resistant to them.

So what are the scientists doing now?

Scientists will be growing the new strain in the lab to see how it responds. This includes looking at whether it produces the same antibody response, how it reacts to the vaccine, and modelling the new strain.

It could take up to two weeks for this process to be complete.

 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk