The New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) warned the UK did not have the capabilities to research these mutations in-depth and whether they would be harmful. However, the group explained in its research paper that mutations of a virus-like COVID-19 were normal referring to an example when the virus would have adapted to infect humans from animals in China.
Researchers believe most of these mutations will be “harmless” stressing none of the genetic changes found in the virus increase or decrease the severity of the disease.
However, they warned it may affect transmission.
The paper, seen by Express.co.uk, added: “In the UK, researchers are currently monitoring whether mutations are occurring, but are not systematically checking whether these mutations matter.
“This is an important gap in our knowledge.
“We currently lack the capability in the UK to rapidly and systematically assess the biological significance of detected genetic change.”
It comes after a Government scientific adviser said Downing Street’s idea that “we can carry on as we are” and have a normal Christmas “is wishful thinking in the extreme”.
Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said “radical action” would be needed to stem the rise in coronavirus cases, particularly in regions with high incidence of the virus.
He stressed a circuit-breaker is needed across the whole country or at least in areas where incidence is high.
He added: “The only way that we can have a relatively safe and normal Christmas is if we take radical action now to reduce incidence – at the very least in high incidence areas – and keep the incidence low across the country by implementing a package of measures to reduce social contacts.”
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8.37am update: Top 10 questions about local lockdowns answered
From staycation rules and quarantine to fines and the latest bubble advice, we’ve put the most common questions about coronavirus rules and local lockdowns to the Government.
To read their answers, click here.
8am update: Additional funding sought for South Yorkshire
Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis has said he will not hesitate to seek additional Government support for South Yorkshire after the region entered the strictest Tier COVID-19 controls.
Mr Jarvis said a £41 million funding package had been secured after a “tough” process of negotiation and he had won an agreement from ministers to keep the situation under review.
“The scale of the challenge is very significant,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
“We are acutely aware of the pressures our NHS is under, not least because winter hasn’t bitten yet, so we are looking very carefully at what we need to do.
“But if there is a requirement for more resource – whether it is economic support or it is other measures of assistance from the Government – I won’t hesitate to go back and ask for them.