The new, more contagious strain of COVID-19 that emerged in the United Kingdom doesn’t appear to be any deadlier, Surgeon General nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy said Sunday.
“This news from the UK appears to be about a new strain of the virus that’s more transmissible, more contagious than the virus we’ve seen prior to this,” Murthy said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”
“While it seems to be more transmissible, we do not have evidence yet that this is a more deadly virus to an individual who acquires it.”
The former surgeon general, who has been tapped by President-elect Joe Biden to return to that position again, added that the new strain doesn’t damper vaccine hoper.
“There’s no reason to believe that the vaccines that have been developed will not be effective against this virus,” Murthy said.
The new strain rapidly spread throughout southeast England, accounting for more than 60 percent of new infections in London.
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, who is the World Health Organization’s technical lead for COVID-19, said Sunday that the new strain has also made its way across borders.
“We understand that this variant has been identified also in Denmark, in the Netherlands and there was one case in Australia and it didn’t spread further there,” Van Kerkhove told the BBC on Sunday.
She said that it’s concerning that the new strain is “spreading and that it has so many mutations.”
“The longer this virus spreads, the more opportunities it has to change. So we really need to do everything we can right now to prevent spread,” she said.
Certain regions of the southeast England have been placed under stricter lockdowns — and the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy have banned flights from the United Kingdom.