Mutant coronavirus strain ‘is more contagious and learning to get around masks’

New mutant strains of coronavirus are becoming more powerful and changing their behaviour to infect as many victims as possible, scientists claim.

Researchers studying the killer bug are watching the Covid-19 virus shape-shift into new forms which make it far easier to catch. They could soon have the potential to overcome barriers such as masks, they fear.

PM Boris Johnson has repeatedly warned the British public that they will face fines for not wearing face coverings.

But his efforts may be in vain as the clever virus finds novel methods to become more contagious, the US scientists said.

Experts in Houston have been sequencing the genomes of the killer virus since March and have tracked 5,085 sequences.

Virologist David Morens, of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), says coronavirus has become more contagious.

He told the Washington Post that this “may have implications as to how we can control it.

He added: “Wearing masks, washing our hands, all those things are barriers to transmissibility, or contagion, but as the virus becomes more contagious it statistically is better at getting around those barriers.”

The mutations are becoming more powerful by changing their biological behaviour to fight back against our methods of battling them, the US scientists say.

One of the most dominant strains in the US – called D614G – is responsible for 99.9% of cases in Houston, Texas, they found.

It varies the structure of the “spike protein” to help it become more potent and infect more people. The spikes enable the virus to grab on to infected cells which then increases the ability of the mutant virus to infect more cells.

Experts from the University of Chicago and the University of Texas Austin say D614G is out-performing almost all other variations.

People who contract it have much higher viral loads in their respiratory tract so when they cough the virus to spreads more widely.

But despite the strain being more powerful it is not more deadly, the researchers found.

It comes as a "frontline hero" doctor who urged people to wear face masks died of coronavirus.

Tributes have been paid to Dr Rebecca Shadowen after the married mum and infectious disease specialist passed away in the US aged 62.

The UK government is desperate to curb the spread of the virus with Health Secretary Matt Hancock this morning issuing a stern warning to those thinking of having casual sex during the pandemic.

He said people need to "be careful" when it comes to romping outside of "established relationships" during the coronavirus outbreak.

Under the government's latest round of lockdown measures aimed at curbing the spread of the deadly coronavirus, couples in "established" relationships living in different households have been told they are allowed to have sex – but casual hook-ups are still banned.

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