China's Covid-19 vaccine has been found capable of neutralising the new strain of the novel coronavirus first reported in the UK, according to a senior health official.

National Health Commission (NHC) vice-minister Zeng Yixing said China’s scientific community is paying close attention to the new variant and its effect on current jabs as reports indicate that the new strain had arrived in China via imported cases.

He said scientists from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences’ Institute of Laboratory Animal Sciences and the Sun Yat-sen University in Guangdong province are working on the issue.

After examining the new variant and strains reported in China from January-June last year, researchers found that the animal and human antibodies induced by China’s Covid-19 jabs can neutralise the new variant, Zeng said, adding they have submitted their findings to scientific journals and are awaiting publication.

Zeng said: “This result has fortified our confidence that our vaccine can neutralise the mutated variant . . . At least for now, we know current mutations of SARS-CoV-2 will not affect the potency of vaccines.”

Meanwhile, the NHC on January 11 announced that a team from the World Health Organisation (WHO) would arrive in China on January 14 to conduct joint scientific research with Chinese scientists on the origin of the virus.

Zeng said China has attached high importance to tracing the origins of the novel coronavirus and supports cooperation with WHO on the issue.

He said China has had thorough talks on the WHO team’s visit to the Hubei provincial capital of Wuhan, with both sides reaching an agreement. Preparations have been made for scientific research cooperation during the visit.