But hopes the world-beating vaccine roll-out will mean lockdown curbs can be significantly eased any time soon were shot down today by Mr Hancock, who unveiled the latest suite of border curbs and warned they could last until the Autumn when booster vaccines will be available.
Evidence suggests the Oxford University vaccine – the main weapon in Britain’s arsenal to combat the virus – does not stop people falling ill with the South African variant, which is feared to be spreading in the community already.
“This lineage exhibits complete escape from three classes of therapeutically relevant monoclonal antibodies,” the team of scientists from three South African universities working with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) wrote in a paper in bioRxiv, a website that publishes scientific research prior to its being peer-reviewed and submitted to journals.
Government scientists at the Porton Down laboratory in Wiltshire have been conducting experiments on the new strain, and have confirmed ministers‘ fears about it being far more infectious than the original strain of the virus.
In recent weeks, scientists have sounded the alarm about new variants of the coronavirus that carry a handful of tiny mutations, some of which seem to make vaccines less effective.
But it is not just these small genetic changes that are raising concerns. The novel coronavirus has a propensity to mix large chunks of its genome when it makes copies of itself. Unlike small mutations, which are like typos in the sequence, a phenomenon called recombination resembles a major copy-and-paste error in which the second half of a sentence is completely overwritten with a slightly different version.
Speaking with NBC News‘ Lester Holt in his first interview since the Nov. 3 election, Biden said the two progressive senators – who ran their own unsuccessful campaigns for president – were key to helping pass his „very ambitious, very progressive agenda.“