The United Kingdom announced a surprise lockdown on Saturday in London and parts of the country. The decision was once forced on the Boris Johnson government by a surge in coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases. The United Kingdom is now seeing its third wave of infections — or, a second wave which looked to be waning till it suddenly gathered momentum — with the country recording around 35,000 new infections on December 17, the highest in in the future.
The United Kingdom’s sudden decision will also be attributed to the discovery of a new strain of the Sars-CoV-2 virus, which causes the coronavirus disease, and which, Johnson said while imposing the lockdown, was once 70% more infectious than other strains of the virus. It is believed that lots of the new cases in the country are driven by this variant, with up to 60% of the cases in London being caused by it.
The London lockdown, which upends the Christmas and holiday plans of most of the city’s residents, was once announced late Saturday afternoon, but came into effect only at nighttime — resulting in a large-scale exodus from the city to the countryside, the type of scramble have shyed away from at any time, but particularly when a viral pandemic is raging through the city and the country. Days before he announced the lockdown, Johnson said that it might be essential to impose one after Christmas — but clearly, his hand was once forced by fears of a mutant strain.
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It isn’t just the United Kingdom; South Africa announced on Friday that a new strain of the Sars-CoV-2 virus has been detected in the country, and that this could be driving the second one wave of infections in the country. The country has seen a spike in cases since mid-November, and the seven-day average of new cases is around 70% of the peak seen in the first wave, and rising.
There are some interesting similarities between the new strains in the United Kingdom and South Africa. Both, health authorities in the two countries claim, seem to be spreading faster. The two strains appear to share a mutation, one that alters the constitution of the spike protein of the virus. Health officials in both countries imagine this could if truth be told be helping the virus spread faster — in the end, the spike protein is how the virus binds to receptors in human cells. In South Africa, scientists studying the variant claim that the new strain leads to higher viral loads in patients — based on studies of swab samples.
Here’s what we realize: both new strains (the South African one would seem to be older and more widespread, based on what the country’s health authorities say) show a remarkable number of mutations, including a shared one (N501Y is what scientists are calling it) that has effects on the spike protein. And both strains seem to be more infective.
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Viruses mutate, so the truth that Sars-CoV-2 is showing mutations is neither abnormal nor cause for alarm. But these mutations could have a bearing on its virulence in addition to the effectiveness of vaccines and that’s definitely something that merits further study.
Here’s what we have no idea: we have no idea for certain whether the new strain is more infective; we have no idea for certain whether the new strain leads to higher viral loads in patients (which, in turn, makes it more infective); we have no idea for certain whether the new strain causes more severe forms of Covid-19 (initial evidence would seem to propose it doesn’t, but we have no idea for certain) and leads to more deaths; and we have no idea whether the vaccines that have so far proved successful against the virus are effective against the new strain as mannered.
That’s a large number of we-do-not-know-for-sures , but that is precisely the way science works. It is going to be interesting to see whether the current strain(s) of Sars-CoV-2 being detected in India show any of the mutations seen in the new strain in the United Kingdom and South Africa, particularly the N501Y one.[ad_2]