THE Bristol Covid variant could reinfect Brits who have already been vaccinated, a Sage expert has warned.
Professor John Edmunds said the mutant strain could also reinfect those who have caught the bug before – as he warned it would be "very dangerous" to let the virus rip through Britain.
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The Bristol strain emerged last week – along with another Liverpool variant.
It developed directly from the Kent strain and now includes a mutation called E484K, allowing the virus to evade vaccines more easily.
Prof Edmunds told ITV's Robert Peston: “I don’t know whether the Bristol variant is any more transmissible than the Kent variant – I suspect it isn’t."
But "the real worry," he said, was the strain's potential to reinfect.
He added: “Where it has an advantage, potentially at least, is that it may be able to reinfect people who have been previously infected or have been previously vaccinated – that’s the real worry with that particular virus.”
The mutation present in the Bristol strain is already found in both South African and Brazilian coronavirus variants.
It is being closely monitored by Public Health England.
Meanwhile, Professor Edmunds last night warned it would be "very dangerous" to let the virus rip through Britain after vaccinating the most vulnerable groups.
He also said some Covid measures would remain "probably forever" although he hopes we will be "more or less free of this" by the end of the year.
The government has said it will set out a roadmap for easing restrictions on February 22.
It has vowed schools will be the first of things to reopen – but not before March 8.
On whether the R rate would rise above 1 if schools reopen then, Prof Edmunds told Peston: "We're not absolutely certain – it looks as if it would be touch and go.
"If we opened up schools I think that the reproduction number would get close to one and possibly exceed one.
"If we opened them up completely – if we opened secondary schools and primary schools both at the same time – I suspect we'd be lucky to keep the reproduction number below one.
"I think we have to do everything very gradually and see how it goes."
The top epidemiologist also said we should keep travel borders "pretty tight" and be "very cautious" about travel abroad.
It comes after Boris Johnson cautioned against booking holidays abroad- backing up his Transport Secretary who was also cautious.
The PM said during a press briefing on Wednesday: "Well, as you know, everybody knows it's currently illegal to go on holiday.
"That's the state of play at the moment, we're looking at the data, every day, on Monday we'll be able to say a little bit more about where we are, where the data is.
"Then in the week of the 22nd, as I said, we'll be setting out the roadmap.
"I hope that we'll be able to give some clarity to people there.
"I am afraid it is just too early for people to be certain about what we will be able to do this summer.
"We hope to be able to say more in the week of the 22nd when more comes in, and how the vaccine is working on us all.
"We are just going to have to be a bit more patient."
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