Sajid Javid said there are no detected cases of the Covid 19 variant in the UK at this time, but that it could “pose a substantial risk to public health”.

The B.1.1.529 variant is the only one to be designated as having a very high level of priority of investigation and is more transmissible than the Delta variant.

As of Friday November 26, South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe were added to the UK's red list.

The Health Secretary said the government will not hesitate to add other countries to the red list and discussions around this are "very live". 

“We are keeping this under review and there’s very live discussions going on about whether we should and when we might add further countries, and we won’t hesitate to act if we need to do so.”

He said the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called a special meeting which is taking place on the morning of Friday November 26. 

Speaking to the House of Commons, Mr Javid said: "This is a fast-moving situation and there remains a high degree of uncertainty."

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: New cases of Covid-19 in the UK: second wave v third wave. (PA)New cases of Covid-19 in the UK: second wave v third wave. (PA)

He said the sequence of the variant was first uploaded by Hong Kong from a case of someone travelling from South African and it was the UK that alerted international partners. 

Cases in South Africa had increased four-fold over the last two weeks, which is a transmission rate causing concern to scientists.

"This variant is a reminder for all of us that this pandemic is far from over," said Mr Javid.

"We must continue to act with caution and do all we can to keep this virus at bay."

He urged people to get their vaccine and booster jabs to ensure they have the maximum protection against Covid-19.

READ MORE: B.1.1.529 variant: Does the new Covid variant resist vaccines? What we know