Scientists may know exactly where and when England’s mutant Covid strain started

The new Covid-19 variant is spreading across the UK and scientists already know it's more transmissible than the first we saw last year.

The first sample was discovered in a person who lived near Cantebury, Kent, back in September, according to scientists.

The new mutant strain, who has 14 various mutations believed to make it 70% more infectious, has led to countries across the globe banning travellers from the UK.

The World Health Organisation has since confirmed the first sample was found in Kent on September 20, writes KentLive.

Data from the Covid-19 Genomics UK Consortium shows a key sample was found "near Canterbury".

Experts believe the new variant may have been created by mutating inside an "immunosuppressed" person over a long period of time.

This means they had a reduced ability to fight off infections and other diseases, normally because of their own illness or condition, like cancer.

Dr Jeffrey Barrett, Director of the SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, told KentLive: "There’s another case in London from September, so B.1.1.7 (the variant) was present in both places early.

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"We don’t know exactly how many cases there were in each place in the early days."

He added: “There have been a number of reports of individual patients who have prolonged illness, and in whom a similar pattern of mutations to B.1.1.7 (the variant) arose.

"So there is a hypothesis that an event like this might have been the origin. Some, but not all, of these patients are immunosuppressed.

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"It does seem like B.1.1.7 is the first example of a new variant arising in this way that went on to circulate widely."

Experts believe the first significant outbreak was in Kent, flowed by Medway, and then it may have spread through south and east London before hitting other parts of London and Essex.

Public Health England realised the scale of the problem when cases continued to surge in November, despite a national lockdown in place.

More data was provided to the Government in December, and the next day Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced millions of people would be plunged into Tier 4 lockdown.

A random testing sample of people in the South East recently found the new variant accounted for 71% of new positive cases.

England is now in its third national lockdown in a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus, and ministers have said restrictions should ease by mid-February.

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