A World Health Organisation (WHO) official has said a new strain of coronavirus in the South East was identified in September. 

Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Maria Van Kerkhove, Covid-19 technical lead at WHO, said: “The UK had picked this up in September and seeing that this has been circulating in south-east England since September.”

She said that “there are mutations that are identified all the time”, adding: “What is really important is that there’s a process in place to understand what these variants do and how they behave.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Large crowds gather at St Pancras to flee tough Tier 4 Christmas restrictions in London

Ms Van Kerkhove said the variant had also been identified in Denmark, the Netherlands and Australia – with there being one case in the latter that did not spread further.

She added: “And so more sequencing that can be done will be helpful to help us determine if this variant is circulating elsewhere.

“Sequencing will also help us understand any changes in the viruses that are being identified.

“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, and minimising that spread will reduce the chances of it changing.”

She added that there were measures that could reduce the spread of the new strain of coronavirus.

READ MORE: Warning new Covid-19 variant could be 'big trouble' for Scotland

All of us need to look at what we do every day in terms of minimising our exposure.

“It’s a thousand little decisions every day about what we do. We need to know what our risk is when we go about our day and we need to take those steps to limit the risk.

“The virus may be more transmissible with this particular variant, and circulating in certain areas, but there are measures that can reduce the spread.”

Asked if other nations would ban flights from the UK after a decision by The Netherlands, Ms Van Kerkhove said “it is possible”.

She added that, even before the emergence of the new strain, people were advised to limit their travel.