England's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said that while there was no current evidence the variant of the novel coronavirus caused a higher mortality rate or impacted vaccines, urgent work was underway to confirm this.
The new strain of COVID-19 is "out of control" in the United Kingdom and people need to behave as if they already have the virus, Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned.
Scientists on the Government's New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) have concluded the VUI 202012/01 mutant strain, identified by the Public Health England laboratories at Porton Down, is spreading more quickly.
Dr Susan Hopkins of Public Health England has said that while many regions had cases of the new strain, these were in much smaller numbers than in London, Kent and parts of Essex.
"When the virus changes its method of attack we must change our method of defense", Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at a news conference Saturday.
Speaking to On The Record with Gavan Reilly, he explained what we know so far about the new virus.
He ordered new restrictions for London and south-eastern England from Sunday, saying that under the new "tier four" rules, "residents in those areas must stay at home" at least until December 30.
Russia's COVID-19 vaccine rollout draws wary mixed response
Leonardo Seoane, chief academic officer for Ochsner Health, was one of the first employees to get vaccinated. It grants New Zealand access to more than 18 million doses - enough for almost 13 million people.
Viruses tend to evolve or mutate quickly, particularly those like flu that require new vaccines to be developed each year because of changes in key proteins.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on December 18 that it was in touch with South African authorities over the development.
He said, "We're hoping very much that we will be able to avoid anything like that".
Sir Patrick said: "There's no evidence it causes a more severe disease, causes more hospitalisation, causes more trouble than the other virus".
"We absolutely need to stick to the basics of making sure that we reduce our contacts, reduce the ability for this virus to spread, and that's the reason that tougher measures are required to keep their variant under control". "We've got a long way to go to sort this, essentially we've got to get that vaccine rolled out to keep people safe".
The pressure on the virus to evolve is increased by the fact that so many millions of people have now been infected.
South Africa has recorded more than 9.12 lakh COVID-19 cases so far - the highest in Africa.