A government Minister has warned on Friday that should another variant manages to get around the vaccine then the UK will be in “another full lockdown.”
Today the government are set to announce the relaxation of international travel rules, but Ministers are also weighing up the risks.
The World Health Organization (WHO) put the world on red alert over the Mu variant which is feared to be resistant to vaccines in the UK.
Public Health England (PHE) have already confirmed that there is 53 cases in the UK and scientists said the MU variant contains the mutation E484K which escapes antibodies which the vaccine produces for protection.
Warwick Medical School’s Professor Lawrence Young said he would be “very, very surprised” if the Mu variant was more transmissible, but the vaccine resistance would make it a real threat.
He added, “We may have reached peak infectiousness with the Delta variant but what we have not reached, of course, is peak immune avoidance.”
There have been 23 cases in London with seven in the East of England and six in the South East of the country.
One of the key decisions that will be made today is whether or not Brits continue to take the PCR test before flying back to the UK.
The Environment Secretary George Eustice told Sky News, “Arguably the biggest threat to the travel industry is that if we do get another variant that manages to get around the vaccine, that the vaccine can’t deal with, then we’re into another full lockdown and that’s not what we want.
“That’s why we’ve taken this cautiously, step by step, because we want each step we take to be irreversible.’
Eustice was asked if there would be a switch to lateral flow tests, “I haven’t heard that because I’m not on that particular sub-committee that deals with this.
“They will want to consider all the evidence before taking a final decision.
“The rationale for the PCR test is that you can do genome sequencing of variants and you can, therefore, detect possible variants of concern.
“The difficulty with the lateral flow test, although it is cheaper and simpler to do, it is not able to pick up those variants.
“So, that’s the rationale and that’s been the rationale so far for making sure we keep some of that PCR testing in place.”