It is well known that viruses mutate all the time.
Every year there is mutation of the seasonal influenza virus. Therefore scientists were not surprised that variants of the novel coronavirus – that causes Covid-19, were detected since the pandemic had begun.
However a new strain of the Cvoid-19 causing virus in recent days has caused concerns.
While it is believed that the current vaccines being prepared against Covid-19 could still be effective against it and the new variant is not deadlier thane the original one, but the cause of concern is that the new strain is apparently 70 per cent more transmissible than the original one.
It is believed that that the new variant first occurred in mid-September in the southeast part of the United Kingdom in the capital London and the county of Kent. The new variant is now called VUI-202012/01 (the first Variant Under Investigation in December 2020).
The government was notified about the new variant of the virus by the Susan Hopkins of Public Health England after the in the capital London or the county of Kent was revealed in scientific modelling. The findings were submitted to the World Health Organization by the UK government.
There has been a sudden surge I n Covid-19 infections in the country’s southeast since then the new strain of the virus is believed to be the dominant form of the virus there.
In the week of December 9, 62 per cent of cases in London were found linked to the new variant. In comparison, only 28 per cent of the infections were die to it as found in the previous three weeks.
Stricter lockdown measures over the coming Christmas period have been enforced by the UK government because of this rapid development.
That was in opposition to an earlier pledge by the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson of allowing people to get together for festivities. However a ban on mixing households until at least the end of December, when the new measures will be reviewed, have been imposed in many parts of the UK as the government was faced with rising criticism and on the advice of his scientific advisers.
The new variant may be in other countries as well but might have started in the UK, said Patrick Vallance, the UK’s chief scientific adviser.
The first European countries to react to the development in the UK were the Netherlands and Belgium as they banned travellers from the UK to prevent the new strain of the virus from spreading.
At least one case of the new strain had been found in the country, claimed Dutch authorities, who have since banned flights carrying UK passengers until January 1. And according to the Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo who spoke to Belgian television channel VRT, flight and train arrivals from the UK have been suspended for at least 24 hours.
It is possible to identify the new variant by the current swab tests, said the UK’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty.
The new lockdown measures might stay in place for some time, said the UK Health Minister Matt Hancock.
“Given how much faster this new variant spreads, it’s going to be very difficult to keep it under control until we have the vaccine rolled out,” Hancock said.
(Adapted from AlJazeera.com)