NHS trials technology to identify Covid-19 variants faster

Britain is trialling technology which could halve the amount of time it takes to identify mutations of Covid-19, in a bid to curb the spread of concerning strains across the country.

The NHS has kicked off a trial for genotype assay testing, with the hope that eventually all positive Covid-19 sample will be tested for new mutations through this technology – speeding up the process significantly.

Currently genome sequencing takes between four and five days. The UK is a world-leader in genome sequencing, and since March, the UK has sequenced around ten times as many Covid-19 genomes as the world’s next best sequencers. Around 50pc of all genome testing of Covid is done in the UK, equal to just over 250,000 genomes.

The importance of such work has come to the fore in recent months, amid the emergence of a number of strains of concern.

Fears are currently centred around the South Africa strain, which studies suggest may be tougher to tackle with vaccines. Whilst there is no definitive data yet on whether the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines work against the South African strain, experts believe the vaccines will be able to stop severe cases.