A new strain of the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, has been detected in the United Kingdom. This discovery has sparked new fears, causing multiple countries to ban travel from the U.K.
The United States does not have a COVID-19 cased caused by this new strain yet. However, as the first doses of the COVID-19 roll out, the news about this new variant has gotten a lot of people’s attention.
When the new strain of the coronavirus was discovered, U.K. officials said that it appears to be more transmissible than the original strain of the virus.
Experts discovered the virus as early as September. It has been found in southeastern England and even as far as Australia. More recently, a case caused by this strain has been identified in Italy.
JUST IN: #COVID19 strand in the United Kingdom, which was found to have higher transmission rate, has also been identified in Italy.
FG through Aviation Minister must take a proactive action immediately by placing ban on UK and Italy flights from landing in Nigeria.
— Uncle Deji (@DejiAdesogan) December 20, 2020
While one or two mutations of the coronavirus sometimes appear, this new variant has 17.
Apart from a large number of mutations, this strain also appears to be more easily transmitted from person to person. According to Catherine Troisi, an infectious disease expert from the UTHealth School of Public Health in Houston, eight of the mutations affect the “spike protein” found on the skin of the coronavirus. These mutations allow the new variant to infect host cells more easily.
World’s Response to the New Coronavirus Strain
In the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson released an order for more restrictions and postponed the implementation of more relaxed COVID-19 related community rules. The government initially planned on relaxing community rules before the holidays. However, now, new directives force more than 16 million people in London and southeast England to stay at home instead.
In response to the discovery of this new coronavirus strain, several countries have already issued travel restrictions to and from the U.K.
Right after Prime Minister Johnson’s announcement of the discovery, European countries like Poland, Spain, Switzerland, and Sweden immediately suspended travel for Britons. Places in Asia, such as India, Pakistan, Jordan, and Hong Kong, also had the same response. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Oman decided to close their borders completely.
Over the weekend, more countries followed suit in restricting travel from the U.K. These countries include EU countries such as Germany, Italy, France, Austria, Belgium, and Ireland. Canada also stopped allowing passenger-carrying flights from Britain.
In the U.S., Health Secretary Brett Giroir said no directive regarding a U.K. travel ban has been decided yet.
France has banned all but "unaccompanied freight". THIS IS MASSIVE.
I was talking to the boss of Eurotunnel earlier and the M20 is already a car park. The whole of Kent will be one tomorrow. Mixture of Brexit, Covid and Christmas stockpiling#coronavirus #France #travel
— Ben Clatworthy (@benclatworthy) December 20, 2020
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, however, asked the federal government to “take swift action” regarding this new strain. He urged the government to take steps to prevent the more contagious strain from entering the United States.
“It’s high time the federal government takes swift action, because today that variant is getting on a plane and landing in JFK, and all it takes is one person,” Cuomo said.
PCR Tests and Vaccines Are Still Effective
While the strain has 17 mutations, it will not complicate the detection process too much. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests will still detect the virus. Also, experts say it can also differentiate the new strain from the original.
Additionally, the effect of the vaccines available will still be effective against the new strain. Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Vivek Murthy, President-elect Biden’s pick for Surgeon General, said that the people should not doubt the vaccines.
“There’s no reason to believe that the vaccines that have been developed will not be effective against this virus as well,” he said.
However, experts also acknowledge the need for surveillance.