COVID-19 new strain: Risks, transmissions and response to vaccine explained

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covid, coronavirus, covid vaccinationUK authorities have mentioned that laboratory work is currently being done to understand this phenomenon completely.

At a time when Europe rejoiced at the introduction of Pfizer vaccination, a new strain of the Coronavirus infection surfaced and pushed people among rising fears. What is the new strain and will it impact the vaccination drive across the continent– such questions became a cause of worry. Amid the concerns of the new COVID-19 strain growing rapidly, India too suspended its flight operations to the UK till at least December 31. Some other countries also suspended their flight operations to and have imposed travel restrictions.

It is to note that last week, South and East England witnessed a surge in COVID-19 cases and the reason behind the surge was found to be the new variant of the viral infection. The variant is being called VUI (Variant Under Investigation) 202012/01/ According to UK Health Secretary Matt Hancoc, the country has identified a variant of the coronavirus that led to an increase in viral spread in the South of England. Infact, WHO has also been informed about it.

A report by The IE citing Public Health England (PHE) highlighted that the new variant has impacted 1,108 cases by December 13 and the organisation is working on the further investigation. The findings of these investigations are to be released in the next two weeks. The new variant has come due to several mutations in the spike protein of the virus along with other RNA content. According to the data so far, the mutated viral content has a higher transmission rate when compared to some previous mutated strains that were identified. PHE stated that the  whole-genome sequencing, modelling and epidemiology data is indicating that this strain has easier transmissibility. Further, more studies are being conducted to know more about the transmissibility as well as the severity of disease.

Also, the report said that there is no such evidence as of now that highlighted that severity by this viral strain can result in mortality. In the coming weeks, the viral strain will be under rigorous monitoring. PHE is not aware of the mechanism that resulted in increased transmission. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control brief on a threat assessment recently and said that when phylogenetic analysis was done, the new COVID-19 strain had 29 different nucleotide substitutions when compared to the viral strain that was transmitted in Wuhan originally. Last month, three sequences of the mutated virus were collected from Denmark and one from Australia. And with more samples being collected from the UK, the strain has spread internationally and there is no clarity on the extent of the spread for the new COVID-19 variant.

Meanwhile, UK authorities have mentioned that laboratory work is currently being done to understand this phenomenon completely. Also, there has not been any evidence that suggested that Pfizer vaccine will not be able to protect people against the new strain.

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