Updated: Dec 22, 2020, 12:59 IST
The emergence of a new strain of the coronavirus has caused pandemonium in the United Kingdom with the government announcing strict lockdown measures during Christmas to the new year. The new strain, B117, has been said to be 70% more transmissible and has forced several countries to suspend all transport from the UK.
What Is The New Strain?
The mutated strain is called B117 and it is linked to the change in the structure of the protein spikes on the virus that help it to attach itself to human cells. This mutation has enabled the virus to infect cells at a much faster rate. Countries around the globe were thrown into doubt over whether the vaccines would be effective against this new variant of the virus.
As per World Health Organization (WHO) epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove, the reproduction rate, also known as an infected person’s ability to spread the virus, of the new Covid-19 variant has increased from 1.1 to 1.5. However, she did not see it making an impact on vaccines or the vaccination process.
What Has WHO Said?
WHO said that people can protect themselves against the strain by following usual safety protocols like wearing masks, washing hands, and maintaining social distancing. Kerkhove said during an interview with CNN on Monday that they did not anticipate any impact on the vaccination due to the strain. “So far we do not see any increase in disease severity or clinical picture. We are also looking at the body’s ability to develop antibodies. The studies are ongoing,” she said.
WHO and doctors from the UK have set up a surveillance system to study the spread of the B117 strain. As per scientists, a mutation in a virus was natural. All viruses, including the coronavirus, mutate as they replicate and are transmitted from one human to another. “We have to work a little bit harder as the new Covid-19 variant is spreading. These are in the presence of interventions that are put in place across England. Viruses mutate, they change all the time,” Kerkhove added.
What Measures Has UK Taken?
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced strict lockdown measures even during the Christmas period in London and parts of southern England. Johnson urged citizens to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve indoors as the high transmissibility rate of the B117 strain would put Britain’s NHS under immense pressure should the virus spread was justify unchecked.
What Steps Did Other Countries Take?
India announced the suspension of all flights originating from the UK to India from December 23 to December 31 on Monday. Those arriving before the suspension period would have to undergo mandatory RT-PCR tests on arrival. The Maharashtra state government said that all passengers coming from the Middle East and Europe would have to undergo 15 days of institutional quarantine while those from anywhere else in the world would have to undergo home quarantine.
Europe has cut off travels from Britain, with France being the first nation barring entry to anyone coming from the UK into their borders. Soon after, Germany, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Austria, Bulgaria, Romania, Malta, Croatia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Greece and Russia have banned flights to and from the UK. Countries outside of Europe like India, Argentina, El Salvador, Chile, Saudi Arabia, Colombia, Ecuador and Israel have also suspended flights from the UK.