The UK Government has created the Covid-19 Genomics UK Consortium to map the spread of the novel coronavirus across the country using whole genome sequencing.

Comprised of experts from the National Health Service, public health bodies, the Wellcome Sanger Institute and academic institutions, the consortium will use its £20m of government funding to analyse the genetic code of Covid-19 from samples taken from confirmed UK cases.

By understanding the whole virus genome of Covid-19 in various different people, public health bodies can assess how the virus is changing and spread, as well as whether different strains of the virus are emerging.

The UK’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance said: “Genomic sequencing will help us understand Covid-19 and its spread. It can also help guide treatments in the future and see the impact of interventions.

“The UK is one of the world’s leading destinations for genomics research and development, and I am confident that our best minds, working as part of this consortium, will make vital breakthroughs to help us tackle this disease.”

Wellcome director Sir Jeremy Farrar added: “Rapid genome sequencing of Covid-19 will give us unparalleled insights into the spread, distribution and scale of the epidemic in the UK.

“The power of 21st century science to combat this pandemic is something that those going before us could not have dreamt of, and it is incumbent on us to do everything we can to first understand, and then limit, the impact of Covid-19.”