The new variable is called VUI-202012/01 – and it is the first ‘variable under investigation’ in the UK in December 2020. As scientists search for more information about the variable, its impact is already being felt.
Several countries have now imposed restrictions on travelers from the UK. British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Sunday that the alternative was “out of control” and Prime Minister Boris Johnson was due to chair an emergency meeting on Monday as his government tries to manage the fallout.
Here’s what you need to know.
A variant occurs when the genetic makeup of the virus changes, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All viruses mutate over time and new variants are common, including the new coronavirus.
This particular variant “has 23 different changes”, said Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, which he described in an unusually large number. Whitty said the substitute is responsible for 60% of new infections in London, which nearly doubled in the past week alone.
This discovery has immediate implications for virus control. More cases could put more pressure on hospitals and healthcare workers altogether as they enter an already particularly difficult winter, ultimately leading to more deaths.
Where did the variable originate and how was it entrenched?
The new version of Covid-19 originated in the southeast of England, according to the World Health Organization.
PHE said the back tracking, using genetic evidence, indicates that the variant first appeared in England in September. Then it traded in very low levels until mid-November.
“The increase in cases associated with the new variant first appeared in late November when PHE was investigating the cause of infection rates in Kent [in southeast England] Despite national restrictions. Then we discovered a group associated with this species rapidly spreading in London and Essex. “
Several experts also suggested that this new variable could have been amplified by the superspreader event, which means that the current spike in cases may also be a result of human behavior.
“A higher gene growth rate in the sequenced samples may not necessarily imply higher transmissibility, for example, if there are delirium of several thousand people where this variant has been introduced and many people are predominantly in this delirium, this may seem very high compared to Julian Tang, a clinical virologist at the University of Leicester, told the Science Media Center that the low background of an unchanged virus.
Which countries are affected?
The variant has already spread globally. In addition to the United Kingdom, the variant has also been detected in Denmark, the Netherlands and Australia, according to the World Health Organization.
Australia identified two cases of the variant in the quarantine area in Sydney, and Italy also identified a patient infected with the variant.
A similar but separate species has also been identified in South Africa, where scientists say it is spreading rapidly along the coastal areas of the country.
Is the new alternative more deadly?
There is no evidence to suggest the new alternative is more lethal yet, according to Whitty, who said “urgent work” began on Saturday to examine the implications for the deaths.
“We are not seeing any increase in virulence (clinical severity) or any significant changes in virulence [spike protein] That would reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine – so far, “Tang told the Science Media Center (SMC).
Several experts have indicated that, for some viruses, increased transmissibility can be associated with decreased virulence and mortality rates. This could mean the alternative is less lethal, although it is too early to tell right now.
“New viruses will adapt to a new host over time – with reduced mortality and possibly increased transmissibility,” Tang said.
“During virus transmission, those that allow for increased viral“ success ”can be selected, changing the characteristics of the virus over time. This usually results in more transmission and less virulence, says Martin Hibberd, professor of emerging infectious diseases at the London School of Health. And tropical medicine, he told the SMC complex.
Will the vaccines developed against this alternative work?
Whitty said Saturday that existing vaccines should continue to work against the new variant.
The head of Warp Speed’s operation echoed his remarks in the United States. Moncef Salawi told CNN on Sunday, “So far, I do not think that there is a single type of vaccine that resists the vaccine.” “We cannot rule it out, but it is not there now.”
The United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union have authorized the Pfizer / BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine and several other vaccines are in development.
What measures are being taken to contain the variable?
England’s chief medical officer has urged people in Britain to take steps to limit the spread of the virus.
“Given this latest development, it is now more important than ever that the public continue to take action in their area to reduce transmission,” Whitty said on Saturday.
Large swaths of England, including London and the southeast, are now under severe restrictions from Level 4 Covid-19, the latest disruption to the Christmas holidays thrown by the pandemic.
Dozens of countries across Europe, the Middle East and the Americas have also announced travel bans for the United Kingdom.
Other countries, such as Greece and Spain, have imposed restrictions that require travelers from Britain to undergo coronavirus tests or quarantine.
America’s chief infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told CNN Monday that he would advise against further travel restrictions to the UK. Fauci said the United States should “definitely watch it, but we don’t want to overreact.”