The end of 2020 was marked with the beginning of a new strain of COVID-19, initially the mutated version of the COVID-19 was found in the Southern England but according to reports, it has spread to other countries as well like South Africa, Nigeria and Pakistan and USA. The diagnosis of new strain of COVID-19 pushes the world at the verge of panic and lockdowns because according to the experts, the new strain of COVID-19 is 70 percent more contagious than the SARS-COV-2 meaning that it is now more transmissible and could spread more easily.
However, the mutated version of coronavirus does not show any signs to worsen the disease and unlikely that a single new mutation in the variant virus will make the vaccine less effective. This shows that the reports of lethality of the mutated strain of COVID-19 are false and the reports of the World Health Organization show that with the spread of this mutated strain in the England, there has been a hike in the new cases but the ratio of deaths remained low.
According to WHO, globally in the last week of December 2019, over 4 million new COVID-19 cases and 72 000 new deaths were reported. This brings the cumulative numbers to over 79 million reported cases and over 1.7 million deaths globally since the start of the pandemic. As cases of the coronavirus continue to rise, health officials warned of a new strain of the coronavirus.
This new variant, called B.1.1.7, has been linked to the United Kingdom and mutation of the SARS-COV-2. The difference in the new variant and sars-cov-2 is that the new one is more contagious. An advisory group in the U.K. estimated that it could be more than 70% more infectious than the previously observed version of the disease. Another thing to worry about is that one of the mutations in the new variant affects one of three genomic targets used by some PCR tests. This means that in those tests, that target area, would come up negative. However, the pharmaceutical companies that are making vaccines say their vaccines will protect the people against this new strain.
A vaccine specialist from UK said that “It’s unlikely that this will have anything more than a minor, if any, effect on the vaccine’s effectiveness.”
It is to understand that coronaviruses are not a new thing and they have existed for a long time and there are large families of this virus found decades ago. Many of them can cause a variety of illnesses, from a mild cough to severe respiratory illnesses. However, the novel coronavirus or SARS-COV-2 is one of several known to infect humans. It has probably been around for some time in animals but since it was first contracted to humans, it turned into a pandemic. Therefore, it is better to put it this way that virus is not new but it is new to human beings.
Earlier in 2020, when the pandemic was new, you might have heard that there was more than one strain of the new coronavirus. The theory about different strains of the new coronavirus came from a study in China. Researchers were studying changes in coronavirus RNA over time to figure out how various coronaviruses are related to each other. They looked at 103 samples of the new coronavirus collected from people, and they looked at coronaviruses from animals. It turned out that the coronaviruses found in humans were not all the same. There were two types, which the researchers called “L” and “S.” They are very similar, with slight differences in two places. It looks like the S type came first. However, the scientists say the L type was more common early in the outbreak.
In UK, the health officials are now carrying out random sequencing of samples from positive cases across the country in order to survey its spread through the nation and to build up regional maps of its prevalence. However, with the increased transmission and contagious nature of the new COVID-19 strain, there will be an increased pressure on the healthcare sector. With the limited availability of healthcare workers and equipment, a spike in the infection can result in a catastrophe. Increase in cases will also impact the availability of beds and healthcare workers for other patients who are suffering from terminal illness or other critical diseases.
With a new mutated version of COVID-19 out there, which is more contagious, we need stringent measures to control the spread of the virus. However, it is understood that viruses mutate all the time and this mutation of COVID-19 is normal and a natural occurrence happens when the virus replicates, but this does not indicate that we should overlook the precautionary measures. We have to stay vigilant and there is cause for concern because it will indirectly affect other patients and the hospitals and healthcare workers capacity.
If there is a new mutated strain of COVID-19 out there, this does not mean that there is a need to revise the standard operating protocols. All we have to do is to care about our loved ones and us and it is possible through maintaining physical distance of 2 meters and at the more stringent use of masks and hand washing. It also necessitates that governments should impose strict lockdowns and the authorities ensure strict compliance of SOPs in the markets and in public transportation.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it is important to remain vigilant, no matter where you are.