On December 19, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced changes on COVID-19 restrictions because of the new strain found in the U.K., which is said to be more 70% more contagious. This prompted some European Union countries to either limit or ban flights from the U.K.
While viruses evolve naturally as, some more than others, new strains of the coronavirus have been found since it was first detected in China in December 2019. These new strains often acquire minimal changes in their genetic alphabet, but a bigger worry is when the virus mutates including surface protein, which could help it escape the immune system or drugs. Here's what is known about the UK New Strain of COVID-19.
UK New Strain of COVID symptoms
According to AP News, the new coronavirus strains from the U.K. and South Africa seem to spread faster, which triggered the alarm from the authorities. Health experts in the U.K. and U.S. said the new strain seems to be more contagious while no evidence shows it to be more deadly or whether it poses any concern for getting the vaccine.
The U.K. Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance said the strain "moves fast and is becoming the dominant variant," which has triggered more than 60% of infections in London in December. The strain has also concerned because it has already carried out nearly two dozens of mutations. Some new strains bear the spiky protein in which the virus attach to and infect cells, which are targeted by current vaccines.
Dr. Ravi Gupta who studies viruses at the University of Cambridge said the new strain has worried about him, although it is still too early to know how important it is. Gupta and other researchers published a report in a preprint server bioRxiv, but it has not yet been peer-reviewed.
Back in April, Gupta said that researchers in Sweden have found a virus in April with two genetic changes that seemed to be twice more infectious with about 6,000 cases worldwide, mostly in England and Denmark.
UK Christmas Ban 2020
Italy, the Netherlands, and other countries have banned all passenger flights coming from the U.K., which will remain until the New Year to reduce the risk of spreading the newly discovered viral strain.
According to the Dutch government, they decided to push the ban after the news of a new coronavirus strain infected the people in London. "We've now seen the emergence and spread of several variants," said Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center genetics expert and biologist Trevor Bedford on Twitter.
With #COVID19 vaccine efficacy of ~95%, I'm looking forward to vaccine distribution in 2021 bringing the pandemic under control. However, I'm concerned that we'll see antigenic drift of SARS-CoV-2 and may need to update the strain used in the vaccine with some regularity. 1/18— Trevor Bedford (@trvrb) December 19, 2020
He added that while some strains have showed resistance to antibody treatments, Bedford is positive that a COVID-19 vaccine with a 95% "will bring the pandemic under control."
The U.K. prime minister has announced that London and Southeast England will be put back on "Tier 4″ lockdown as of December 20, which means household mixing will not be allowed during Christmas. "I must tell you we cannot continue with Christmas as planned," said Johnson as reported by Fox 8 Live.
Local health educator Dr. Eric Griggs said health leaders will be looking for trends and they will not wait for the new strain to further spread.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging Americans not to travel for holidays and to celebrate only with family members within their household.
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Written by CJ Robles