British Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Monday said 105 cases of a coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa have been found in the nation, with 11 of those cases having no links to international travel.
Speaking at a Downing Street news briefing, Hancock said health authorities plan to test 80,000 people from areas around the country to isolate and stop the spread of the new variant.
"There's currently no evidence to suggest this variant is any more severe, but we need to come down on it hard, and we will," he said.
Hancock said the surge of new testing is targeted on those areas where the variant had been discovered and that every single positive case is being sequenced. He said health officials, in coordination with local authorities, are going door to door to test people in those areas.
Hancock also announced on Monday that Britain had now vaccinated 9.2 million people against COVID-19, including 931,204 vaccinations over the weekend. He also announced that Britain has ordered another 40 million doses of a vaccine developed by the French company, Valneva, as the government prepares for the likelihood that repeated vaccinations will be needed to keep the virus in check.
The vaccine, which will be made in Scotland, is still undergoing clinical trials and has not been approved by regulators.
Britain has seen the deadliest coronavirus outbreak in Europe — with over 106,000 fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins University data — but is pushing ahead with one of the world's quickest vaccine programs.