Researchers are working fast to improve vaccines that protect against Covid, a rapidly spreading disease.

The ‘monster’ strain, named Omicron and designated a ‘variant of concern’ by the World Health Organisation on Friday, has reached the UK and Belgium after being discovered in South Africa.

Panic ensued when the UN’s public health agency warned that there was preliminary evidence that this mutation could lead to reinfections and be more transmissible that other strains. The variant may be immune to vaccination, according to scientists at Downing Street.

Yesterday, Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced that flights were rescheduled from South Africa and Botswana to Lesotho, Eswatini as well as Namibia. He told MPs there was a ‘huge international concern about this mutation. 

Following confirmation that Omicron was found in Nottingham, and Chelmsford by health officials, Prime Minister Stephen Harper will host a press conferance this afternoon. 

A number of pharmaceutical companies have stated that they are currently working on adapting their vaccines in order to defeat Omicron. AstraZeneca claimed that in collaboration with Oxford University it developed a vaccine platform which allows them to react quickly to any new variants. 

Pfizer and BioNTech announced that, in the unlikely event that a vaccine is not effective, BioNTech will be able to create and market a custom-made vaccine for that specific variant within approximately 100 days. 

Novavax stated that it had ‘already begun development of a new, recombinant spike proteins based on B.1.1.529′ and would have it available for testing and production within the next few days’.

Moderna stated that Moderna had developed a strategy to prevent new types of concerns since early 2021. The strategy provides three options for responding to the Omicron variant’s weakening immunity. 

The director of Oxford Vaccine Group Sir Andrew Pollard said that he was cautiously optimistic about whether existing vaccines would be effective in preventing severe disease caused by the Omicron variant. According to Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, the director of Oxford Vaccine Group, most mutations have been found in areas that are similar to other Covid variants.

Scientists are racing to tweak existing vaccines against the new Covid variant spreading rapidly across the planet

Researchers are working feverishly to improve vaccines that protect against Covid, a rapidly spreading variant of the virus.

The ¿monster¿ strain, named Omicron and designated a ¿variant of concern¿ by the World Health Organisation on Friday, has reached the UK and Belgium after being discovered in South Africa

Omicron, the’monster’ strain of the virus, was named Friday by the World Health Organisation and has been designated as a variant of concern’ on Friday. It had been discovered in South Africa and reached Britain and Belgium.

Cases of Omicron have already been picked up in the UK, South Africa, Botswana, Hong Kong, Israel and Belgium. It is not yet known whether the variant arrived in the Netherlands yesterday but Dutch authorities are sequencing passengers' tests. There are also suspected individual cases being sequenced in Germany, the Czech Republic and Australia

Omicron cases were already found in South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong. Although it isn’t known if the variant arrived yesterday in the Netherlands, Dutch authorities have begun sequencing passenger tests. It is also possible that individual cases may be being sequenced by authorities in Australia, Germany, and Czech Republic.

Britain has sequenced two cases of the Omicron variant in Nottingham and Chelmsford, Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed this afternoon

Britain has successfully sequenced the Omicron variant of Omicron in Nottingham, and Chelmsford. This was confirmed by Health Secretary Sajid Javid.

British vaccine may offer strong protection against the new super-mutant Covid strain. The Tweaked AstraZeneca jab, which is currently in trial phases, could be available within weeks 

Last night, it was revealed that the British vaccine for the protection of the newly super-mutant Covid strain has been in its final stages.

Test results on the formula, developed by the team behind the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, are due in the next few days. 

It could be available for use in a few weeks if it is successful.

Immunologist Sir John Bell was a member the government’s vaccination task force. He also said that it was impossible to stop the’monster’ virus currently in Southern Africa. 

The latest AZ-based formula was created originally to counter the South African Covid strain. It threatened to spread throughout the continent last year, but it was eventually overtaken in the Delta strain. 

It could also be plugged in to alter the AZ vaccine, or be given through booster shots if necessary.

Since the surge in B11529’s popularity began just a few days back, Sir John and Oxford University colleagues have closely monitored it. It has about 30 mutations.

A more thorough analysis using virus samples flown from South Africa to Britain in canisters will begin next week.

Scientists want to know more about this virus to understand its spreading potential and ability to cause severe illness.

Canada, USA and EU followed Britain’s decision to restrict travel to visitors from south Africa. It was done ahead of WHO adding B.1.1.529 to the WHO’s highest classification for concern variants. 

On Friday, Mr Javid informed the Commons that the variant could be more transmissible and make current vaccines less efficient. He also suggested it might hinder Ronapreve, one of UK’s Covid treatments.

While a Delta surge has been ongoing and a wave of new variants is expected to arrive in Britain, ministers are being urged to take steps to keep the British government from becoming the next victim. In Belgium, the first EU member to declare a case.

Professor John Edmunds is part of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies and advises government. He warned that this could cause a very, very, very difficult position’. 

Prof Pollard however stated that Omicron vaccine development could start’very quickly’ in the event of an emergency.

Marc Van Ranst is a Belgian virologist who confirmed that a sample from a traveller returning from Egypt on November 11, before first showing symptoms eleven days later, was the same variant.

Six African countries have been added to the UK travel redlist. Passengers arriving from Africa from Sunday at 4am will need to make a booking and pay for a Government approved hotel quarantine. This is valid for 10 nights. Downing Street advised anyone visiting these countries in recent times to undergo a test.

According to Mr Javid, discussions continue over adding countries to the red-list. He told the Commons that the government ‘will not hesitate to take action if necessary’.

Boris Johnson called South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa Friday afternoon, after Naledi Pandor, the foreign minister of South Africa said that the ban on flights’seems too hasty’.

Downing Street reported that the Prime Minister had praised South Africa’s “rapid genomic sequencing” as well as its “leadership of transparently sharing scientific information,” Downing Street added.

According to a statement, they discussed “the challenges that the new Covid-19 version poses globally and how to collaborate with them to address it” and also suggested ways to reopen international travel.

Professor Edmunds warned that this new strain was a major concern and suggested it might be possible to bypass current immunity.

He said that ‘our fears are it would do this to a large degree’, as he stated on BBC Radio 4’s PM program.

NOTTINGHAM: One case of Omicron has been found in Nottingham, where infections have been creeping up steadily in recent weeks in line with the national picture

NOTTINGHAM: A case of Omicron was found in Nottingham. Infections have increased steadily over the past weeks, in keeping with national trends.

CHELMSFORD: The other was found in Chelmsford, Essex, which has seen a similar trend. The city saw at least 135 new cases on Wednesday, the latest date regional data is available for

Chelmsford (Essex): Another was discovered in Chelmsford. This area has experienced a similar trend. On Wednesday the city had at least 135 cases. The latest regional data are available.

South Africa recorded 2,828 new Covid cases yesterday, more than double the 1,374 recorded last Thursday, but infection levels have yet to skyrocket and no hospitalisations with the new variant have occurred so far. Graph shows: The seven-day average  for cases in the country

South Africa reported 2,828 Covid cases on Tuesday, which is more than twice the number of 1,374 that were recorded last Thursday. But infection levels are still high and the country has not seen any hospitalisations for the new Covid variant. Graph shows: The seven-day average  for cases in the country

Professor Edmunds advised ministers that they should consider extending travel restrictions to Omicron and prepare a plan for dealing with Omicron, because “at some point we are going to get it here in the UK”.

Sage’s other adviser Calum Semple told BBC Breakfast, “If you can slow down the virus entering the country, because you’re timing for the booster campaign, then it (then), leaves the scientists to assess if there’s anything to be concerned about, which it doesn’t seem to.”

“The virus is inevitable. It will soon infect everyone. However, we can slow down the process.

He stated that he was a proponent of hand-washing, masks, and hand-washing. Public transport and shops should have masks. Although we have coronavirus at high levels, vaccines are effective.

Professor Semple advised that people get coronavirus booster shots.

Professor Brendan Wren of London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine stated that people need to’stay calm and avoid overreacting’ and pointed out scientists have the ability to modify vaccines in order for them be compatible with new varieties.

In the Daily Mail, he struck an optimistic tone, writing: “In the arms race to defeat the virus, humanity wins – we are prepared.” It is likely that another variant of the virus will be developed.

“In the meantime it is important to remain calm and not panic.