The UK govt has announced fresh lockdown in London and parts of the country as COVID-19 cases continue to surge after the discovery of a new strain of the Sars-CoV-2 virus. Citizens have been asked to stay at home and follow the strictest of coronavirus regulations. They have also been asked to restrict their Christmas celebrations. Residents have been told to limit socialising to their local areas.
Here is what all we know so far:
WHAT DO EXPERTS SAY?
According to experts, the new strain is 70% more infectious than other strains of the virus. It is believed that most of the new cases in the UK are driven by this variant, with up to 60% of the cases in London being caused by it.
WHAT IS THE NEW MUTANT STRAIN?
Although there is still no absolute certainty about the mutant COVID-19 strain, three things have emerged from the spread; which is, it is rapidly replacing other versions of the coronavirus, parts of the virus have demonstrated mutations and last, some of these mutations have already been found to increase the ability to infect cells.
IS IT DEADLY?
So far there has been no evidence to suggest that the mutant coronavirus strain is more deadly. However, increasing transmission is a cause for concern not only for the masses in general but also for healthcare infrastructure.
IS IT SPREADING FAST?
As viruses go, the new mutant strain seems to be spreading fast. The first case was detected in September but in November, around a quarter of cases in London were the mutant ones, the BBC reported. In mid-December, the figure increased to nearly two-third.
NEW STRAIN FOUND ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD?
Although concentrated in London and South Eastern and Eastern England, the variant has been detected across the UK. A similar variant has emerged in South Africa with similar mutations but appears to be a different strain.
WHAT CHANGES HAVE BEEN DETECTED IN THE VIRUS?
An initial analysis identified 17 potential alterations in the virus. There have been changes in the spike protein that the virus uses to enter the body's cells. One of the mutations alter the 'receptor-binding domain', one of the most important parts of the spike. This is when the spike makes first contact with the surface of the body cells. Changes that make it easier for the virus will make it that more transmissible.
WILL VACCINES WORK ON MUTANT CORONAVIRUS STRAIN?
So far there is no evidence to suggest that they won't. Leading vaccines work by developing an immune response to the existing spike. Vaccines train the immune system to attack several parts of the virus. Even if parts of the spike mutate, the vaccines should work against the virus.
UK FLIGHTS SUSPENDED
The central government announced a ban on flights from the UK immediately following the emergence of a new mutant of Covid 19 in the UK. The suspension will continue till December 31.
GOVT FULLY ALERT: HEALTH MINISTER
The government is fully alert about the new strain of coronavirus, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Monday, stressing that "there's no need to panic".