The Prime Minister is said to have ordered ministers to ramp up preparations for schools reopening ith tens of thousands of people expected to be tested for coronavirus in a bid to find “every single case” of the South African variant.
The cases had no links to travel or previous infections, prompting concerns the mutation may be spreading in communities.
Public Health England has revealed the mutation is better able to evade the immune system has been detected.
And a professor of outbreak medicine who is part of a panel that advises the British government says this is the mutation that is currently “of most concern”.
The new E484K mutation is the same change as has been seen in the South African and Brazilian variants that are causing international concern.
“The mutation of most concern, which we call E484K, has also occurred spontaneously in the new Kent strain in parts of the country too,” said Calum Semple, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, on BBC radio.
The mutation had already been reported in a technical briefing published by Public Health England, but this had not been widely noticed outside of scientific circles.
We will have more on this from our science correspondent Thomas Moore shortly.