Public Health Wales has answered some of the most frequently asked questions about the new strain of the Coronavirus.

The new strain of the virus spreads more easily from person to person and has been found across Wales.

Why has this new Coronavirus variant become such an issue suddenly?

It is normal for viruses to mutate, and the new variant of Coronavirus that is now circulating in the UK is as a result of such a mutation.

We think the new variant has been circulating since at least November 1, 2020. So far, more than 1,400 cases have been identified in England, mainly in the South East. As of December 14 around 20 cases have been confirmed in Wales but the true figure is likely to be higher (several hundreds).

Experts are concerned about the impact of this particular variant because of how common it is, and how fast it spreads.

This variant is easier to spread. Does that mean it requires more Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for health and care staff?

The key advice remains the same that's maintaining two-metre social distancing, washing hands, and use of personal protective equipment.

Health and social care workers should ensure that they have the correct PPE for the areas in which they are working, have been trained in the use of the PPE and use it correctly. It is also essential to ensure that these measures are observed in communal areas outside the clinical areas, like break areas, and when travelling to and from work.

If I have the new variant, will the test pick it up?

Yes. The current tests used in Wales are not affected by the changes in this variant and will still detect the virus.

Is this widespread across Wales or just limited to South East Wales?

The variant has been identified in all areas of Wales.

How many cases have been identified in Wales so far?

As of December 14, 20 confirmed cases have been identified, but estimates suggest that approximately 11per cent of recent new cases (over 600) of COVID-19 are.

It is likely that the variant represents an even higher percentage of overall cases, and this percentage is increasing over time.

When did we know of the first cases in Wales, and what actions have PHW been taking?

It is difficult to tell when this variant started circulating in Wales, but we believe the earliest cases might be from around early November.

Wales is a member of the National Incident Management Team which is currently meeting daily, with wider meetings twice a week. Public Health Wales contribute daily case numbers based on sequencing data, and also an epidemiology summary for confirmed cases. Wales has contributed to a European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) rapid threat assessment on the variant. A protocol for a case-control method to estimate whether reinfections are more likely in variant cases has been developed in Wales and shared for use with Public Health England and Northern Ireland.

Do clinicians need to make any changes to the management plan for treating their current Coronavirus patients?

Currently there is no information to suggest that individuals affected with this variant strain require a different type of care. This is will be kept under constant review.

Does this affect the duration of self-isolation period?

No, it does not. The current recommended period of self-isolation applies.

I have recently had a positive test for Coronavirus. How will I know if I was infected with the variant strain?

Genomic analyses will tell us whether the strain that infected a particular individual is the new variant or not. However, not all positive tests are sequenced and there is usually a lag before sequencing results come through. There are, however, other indicators that give us an idea of how much of this variant is present here in Wales.

Currently there is no information to suggest that individuals affected with this variant strain require a different type of care. This is will be kept under constant review.

I live with someone who is the previous "shielding" group. Do I need to take additional precautions in the light of this new variant?

You will need to continue to take all precautions outlined in the guidance, and people in the clinically extremely vulnerable group should take extra precautions to minimise contact with others in line with the advice given by the Chief Medical Officer for Wales

Will there be more variants in the future?

This is not the first variant of Coronavirus and is unlikely to be the last. Different variants will have different effects on the course of this pandemic.

Is it more harmful?

There is currently no evidence showing that the variant is more severe than previous viruses. This is being monitored by ongoing surveillance and research.

Should I be doing something differently or following the same rules as before?

The main rules - handwashing, social distancing, and so on - have not changed. But increased restrictions have been announced because the variant is easier to spread and because case numbers have been going up.

Does this virus spread more easily through medical procedures that cause patients to release particles from their lungs (also called 'aerosol-generating procedures')?

There is currently no evidence of any difference between this variant and others. But this is something that will be monitored closely going forward.

I have recently received the COVID vaccine, will it still be effective against this new variant?

There is no evidence to suggest that this vaccine approved for use in the UK will not work against this variant. This will be monitored closely.