The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged countries to keep testing for Covid-19 and to step up genomic sequencing so new mutations can be detected next year.
It has also warned people could experience pandemic fatigue in 2021.
Variants to the virus in the UK and South Africa, which appear to be more infectious, have caused concern around the world.
Several countries have closed their borders to both the UK and South Africa but the mutations have still popped up a number of places including France, Germany and Japan.
‘There will be setbacks and new challenges in the year ahead – for example new variants of Covid-19 and helping people who are tired of the pandemic continue to combat it,’ WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at an online news conference from Geneva, Switzerland.
He added the WHO is working closely with scientists across the world to ‘better understand any and all changes to the virus’ and their impact.
Mr Tedros said he wanted to ‘underscore the importance of increasing genomic sequencing capacity worldwide’ and of sharing information with the UN health agency and other countries.
He added ‘only if countries are looking and testing effectively will you be able to pick up variants and adjust strategies to cope’.
Millions of people in the UK could be placed in tier four following a scheduled review on Wednesday due to the fast spreading variant.
Cases have rocketed by 57% in the past week, with the mutant strain, which is 70% more infectious, being blamed for the steep rise, the Sunday Times reports.
The second mutation from South Africa could also lead to an increase in cases in the country.
There are now more Covid patients in England’s NHS hospitals than during the previous peak of the pandemic in April, data has shown.
As of 8am today, there were 20,426 patients in hospital in England, which supersedes the 18,974 patients recorded on April 12.
Across all of the UK, there were 21,683 patients in hospital on April 12, while government data from today shows there are now 21,286.
It comes as the UK saw 41,385 new cases of the virus recorded today- the biggest number of new infections seen by the nation since the pandemic began.
A further 357 deaths with the virus were also recorded.
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