What we know about the UK variant of COVID so far!
While the world was waiting with bated breath to see off the disastrous 2020 which brought unprecedented doom and gloom with loss of lives, business, and in some of the wretched cases hope; the news of various vaccines arriving at various ports was beginning to cheer wary and tired world. However, the weekend brought the world to its precarious worst as the news came flashing on the UK’s fast-spreading new strain of COVID-19 and dealt a heavy blow to all those who were hoping for normalcy in 2021. European countries like the Netherlands, Belgium, and Spain rushed to suspend UK flights to contain 70% more infectious virus which was spreading like a wildfire in the UK. Alarming news came from UK health quarters on the spread and the infection rate. This is the brief as we gathered from various sources
The New Strain
Health personnel stumbled upon this new strain of the virus in Kent while investigating the high prevalence of COVID-19 in local citizens. The investigation brought to the conclusion that strain probably started in September itself and had a slow rate of infection until now, according to Public Health England (PHE) – a government health agency. This new strain is called B.1.1.7 lineage and is responsible for the majority of new infections in the area.
What is mutation
There are many scientific explanation available on what mutations are! However, in colloquial terms, DNA of virus where genes reside which in turn determine the charatectistics of the virus can undergo minor or major changes depending on external or internal factors. A significant number of small changes or a single large change can alter the characteristics of the virus. Scientists who were studying various samples in Kent, stumbled upon lot of samples where they found significant changes in the COVID-19 virus and hence the new strain.
Should we be worried
Yes and no! Genomics consortium UK (COG-UK) notes that this new strain of virus is 70% more infectious. This is the worrying part. However, good news is that there are no evidence yet to suggest that this causes more serious illness than the existing ones. Also, there are no evidence to suggest that current vaccines will not be effective against this new strain of virus.
What is world doing about it?
The UK government has swung into action fast and have placed significant part of the country under strict lockdown with “stay at home” orders and closure of business.
A number of countries have suspended air travel from the UK. India, France, Pakistan, Belgium, Singapore, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Iran, Jordan, Switzerland, Poland have closed their borders to flight from the UK and this list is increasing. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Oman have closed their borders permanently.