Experts have warned it is too early to be worried about a new variant of coronavirus, or make any claims about the potential impacts of the virus mutation.
Their comments come after Health Secretary Matt Hancock said a new variant may be linked to the faster spread of the virus in the South of England.
He stressed there is no evidence to suggest the variant is more likely to cause serious disease, and that it is highly unlikely the mutation would fail to respond to a Covid-19 vaccine.
Mr Hancock said the new strand of the virus, first observed in Kent, is being assessed by Government scientists at its Porton Down research laboratory.
Alan McNally, professor in microbial evolutionary genomics at the University of Birmingham, said: "Huge efforts are ongoing at characterising the variant and understanding its emergence.
"It is important to keep a calm and rational perspective on the strain as this is normal virus evolution and we expect new variants to come and go and emerge over time.
"It's too early to be worried or not by this new variant, but I am in awe of the surveillance efforts in the UK that allowed this to be picked up so fast."
Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham, said: "The genetic information in many viruses can change very rapidly and sometimes these changes can benefit the virus – by allowing it to transmit more efficiently or to escape from vaccines or treatments – but many changes have no effect at all.
"Even though a new genetic variant of the virus has emerged and is spreading in many parts of the UK and across the world, this can happen purely by chance.
"Therefore, it is important that we study any genetic changes as they occur, to work out if they are affecting how the virus behaves, and until we have done that important work it is premature to make any claims about the potential impacts of virus mutation."
Scientists will now be growing cultures of the strain in laboratories to see how it responds, to see if it produces the same antibody response to the existing strain, to see how the vaccine might impact it and to get a full picture of what it means.
However, it may take up to two weeks to thoroughly investigate.
While more is unknown about the new strain than is known, the places where it is being seen – the South of England – is where there are high numbers of cases, indicating it might be because the strain is spreading faster.
However, this needs to be looked at in more detail.
Experts will also be looking at samples all around the country to see whether the strain has spread, and how quickly.
This is the first time that authorities in England have investigated a coronavirus strain in this way.
A mutation is a change in the virus's genome, the set of genetic instructions that have all the information the virus needs to function.
When the virus makes contact with a host and starts to replicate, this set of instructions is copied, but mistakes can happen during this process.
Like all infectious agents Covid-19 mutates as it circulates within the human population, but this is often without any real consequence on the virus.
These mutations can often be linked to the shape of the spike protein of the virus.
The Covid-19 Genomics UK (Cog-UK) Consortium tracks new genetic variants as they spread and investigate if these changes lead to detectable changes in the behaviour of the virus or the severity of Covid-19 infections.
Most mutations that arise and spread have no detectable effect on the biology of the virus.
But a few have the potential to change both the biological behaviour of the virus and persist if they confer an advantage to the virus.
Professor Wendy Barclay, head of the department of infectious disease, Imperial College London, said: "SARS-CoV-2 is an RNA virus and mutations are expected to occur as it replicates.
"It is essential that we understand the consequence of any changes in the genome of the virus – for example, how this might impact on disease, transmission and the immune response to the virus.
"Some variants with changes in the spike protein have already been observed as the virus is intensely sequenced here in the UK and around the world.
"There is no evidence that the newly-reported variant results in a more severe disease.
"This variant contains some mutations in spike protein that is the major target of vaccines, and it will be important to establish whether they impact vaccine efficacy by performing experiments in the coming weeks."