The UK plans to spend an additional £29.3 million (US$40.7 million) on its effort to stay ahead of any SARS-CoV-2 viral variants, the Guardian reports.
This new funding comes on top of £19.7 million already promised to the UK's Porton Down facility, it adds. Currently, scientists at Porton Down are analyzing about 700 blood samples a week to gauge the effectiveness of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines against viral variants and plan to boost their testing capacity to 1,500 samples a week by January, the Guardian says. This infusion of new funding would enable them to double that capacity to 3,000.
In a statement, Matt Hancock, the health secretary, the new funding would "enable us to further future-proof the country from the threat of new variants."
The Financial Times notes that there are four variants of concern circulating in the UK and that existing vaccines provide some protection against them. Still, Sharon Peacock, the head of the COVID-19 Genomics UK consortium, tells it that "[looking] ahead, we need to study new variants very closely, particularly when the majority of the population have been vaccinated, and identify variants that could pose a greater threat to current vaccines."