ITV resident expert Dr Sarah Jarvis says she is ‘genuinely worried’ by the new strain of coronavirus from South Africa detected in the UK.
Dr Sarah, speaking on Good Morning Britain on Christmas Eve, says there are reports the virus transmits much more easily than previous strains – including among children.
It comes on top of the previous new strain which emerged in Kent in November and is now spread across the UK.
That strain yesterday prompted Matt Hancock to slam six million more people into Tier Four lockdown from Boxing Day.
The South Africa strain has seen new rules coming into force from 9am on Christmas Eve forcing anyone who has had recent contact with someone from South Africa to isolate, while entry to the Uk from South Africa is banned.
43 per cent of England is now under the toughest Tier 4 rules – with other areas escalated into Tiers Two and Three.
Dr Sarah also said she was worried about the strain Covid will have on the NHS in the middle of winter.
Dr Sarah said: “I don’t think there is any question that [the new strain] could cause more problems.
“It’s a strain that’s come in from South Africa and the thing that really worries me about it is that there are rumours from South Africa that it can cause more severe illness among young people.
“We have already got 744 deaths yesterday, the highest we have ever had was on the 17th April, which was 888 deaths, but the number of cases has increased by 61%, that’s not from this new South African case, but this other, very transmissible case, which is why we have gone into lockdown.
“If we can’t keep a lid on the South African case, things could get even worse.”
GMB host Charlotte Hawkins asked: “Some are saying for those who can see people on Christmas Day, and then on Boxing Day they can’t, are we going to see a knock-on third spike as a consequence from this?”
Dr Sarah replied: “I genuinely worry that that will be the case, we are just below the peak of the number of people we saw at the height in April.
“What really worries is that April was not the middle of the winter, and the middle of winter is always when the NHS is busiest.
“It genuinely worries me that the NHS won’t be able to cope if we go above the number of cases that we had in the March April lockdown, with winter pressures on top.”
* Good Morning Britain airs weekdays on ITV at 6am