As we bring 2020 to a close and head into what we all hope will be a healthier and happier 2021, UK cautioned against a highly infectious new coronavirus strain, heightening global panic.
Lately, Britain was hit by a newly identified variant of the coronavirus that seems to be more contagious and genetically distinct from the established variants. The initial studies by the UK scientists triggered the British PM Boris Johnson to cancel Christmas celebrations and prompted other countries to ban travel from the UK.
India, Canada, France, Poland, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Russia, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, and Israel have suspended travel from Britain.
The New UK Variant
The new variant of coronavirus is known as VUI–202012/01 or Lineage B.1.1.7. It was first identified in England in September 2020. The first announcement of the existence of the variant was made on December 14 and was subsequently confirmed by Public Health England (PHE) and the COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) Consortium.
According to the PHE, a total of 1,108 cases with the new variant were identified as of December 13, predominantly in the South and East of England.
Is it more contagious than other variants?
In the preliminary research, the UK scientists have found that the new variant is spreading quickly than other coronavirus variants. Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, estimates that the variant is around 50 to 70 percent more transmissible than other variants in the UK. Likewise, UK PM Boris Johnson said the new variant might be up to 70% more transmissible.
New Variant A Normal Part of Pandemic Evolution: WHO
As the UK and the rest of the world are waking up to new chaos, the WHO rushed in to comfort the alarmed populations, saying it was a normal part of a pandemic’s evolution.
“We have to find a balance. It’s very important to have transparency, it’s very important to tell the public the way it is, but it’s also important to get across that this is a normal part of virus evolution,” said WHO Emergencies Chief Mike Ryan.
“Being able to track a virus this closely, this carefully, this scientifically in real-time is a real positive development for global public health, and the countries doing this type of surveillance should be commended,” he added.
The WHO also informed that none of the mutations so far significantly impacted the virus’s susceptibility to any of the prevailing therapeutics, drugs, or the vaccines under development.
India Bans Flights From the UK
The Indian Government has banned inbound travel from the UK, where the new mutated strain of coronavirus is spreading rapidly.
According to the Indian Aviation Ministry, all flights from the UK to India will be suspended from December 22 – 31, 2020. Consequently, flights from India to the UK will also be grounded during the period.
Moreover, the passengers arriving from the UK in all transit flights before December 22 must undergo a mandatory RT-PCR test on arrival at the respective airports.
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