A “NEW variant” of coronavirus has been identified by experts in England and could be the cause of a faster spread in the South East, according to Matt Hancock.

Speaking to the House of Commons this afternoon the Health Secretary revealed more than 1,000 cases had been found, “predominantly in the South East of England" as Hancock confirmed Greater London will be moving into Tier 3 restrictions on Wednesday.

The news comes as vaccinations started being administered last week with people over the age of 80, care home workers and frontline NHS staff at higher risk first in line.

The UK has ordered enough doses to vaccinate 20 million people and there are 800,000 doses being made available initially, meaning 400,000 people will be vaccinated.

While research remains in its early stages, Matt Hancock said that there is no evidence to suggest the Covid-19 vaccines currently being rolled out across the country will not work against the new variant of coronavirus.

He told the Commons: “I must stress at this point that there is currently nothing to suggest that this variant is more likely to cause serious disease and the latest clinical advice is that it’s highly unlikely that this mutation would fail to respond to a vaccine, but it shows we’ve got to be vigilant and follow the rules and everyone needs to take personal responsibility not to spread this virus.

 “I need to tell the House that over the last week, we’ve seen very sharp, exponential rises in the virus across London, Kent, parts of Essex and Hertfordshire.

“We do not know the extent to which this is because of the new variant but no matter its cause we have to take swift and decisive action which unfortunately is absolutely essential to control this deadly disease while the vaccine is rolled out.”