It’s everyone’s worst nightmare: A “mutant” COVID-19 strain. However, there are concerns in Great Britain over a COVID-19 variant that is spreading faster than the original one. What’s known about the new mutant coronavirus strain?
The mutant strain is called VUI — 202012/01. According to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who held a press conference on December 19, the mutant strain of coronavirus, which was discovered December 13 in the county of Kent in southern England, is “growing faster than the existing variants.”
As a result of the unknown effects of the new variation of coronavirus, Johnson announced that Christmas could not go on “as planned.”
“There is much we don’t know,” said the prime minister. “We’re fairly certain the variant is transmitted very quickly. There’s no evidence to suggest it’s more lethal or causes more severe illness. There’s no evidence to suggest the vaccine will be any less effective against the new variant.”
Infections have risen again in England.
Here’s what you need to know:
The Mutant Strain May Be Up to 70 Percent ‘More Transmissible’
Obviously, a major concern about a mutant strain is whether the current vaccines would work against it. Johnson says there is no evidence to suggest they won’t.
Johnson said in a news conference that the new strain is “up to 70 percent more transmissible” than COVID-19. Midweek health minister Matt Hancock cautioned that there is “nothing to suggest” the mutant strain makes people sicker or that it’s vaccine resistant. Johnson also made that point.
In the press conference, Johnson said, “Yesterday afternoon, I was briefed on the latest data that shows the virus spreading more rapidly in London, the southeast and the east of England than would be expected given the top restrictions that are already in place.”
He said he learned why the virus was spreading more rapidly. “It seems the spread is now being driven by the new variant of the virus which we learned about earlier this week,” said Johnson. “Our advisory group has spent the last few days analyzing this new variant.”
He stressed, “There’s no evidence it causes more severe illness or higher mortality, but it does appear to be passed on significantly more easily…There’s considerable uncertainty.” Johnson said the mutant strain “may be up to 70 percent more transmissible than the original version of the disease.”
Added Johnson, “This is early data and subject to review but it’s the best we have at the moment and we have to act. This is now spreading very fast.” He said Great Britain is better able than any other countries to identify new strains of the virus.
Great Britain has submitted its findings to the World Health Organization.
According to Johnson, the country is “learning about it as we go. We already know more than enough to be sure we must act now.”
Johnson Announced That Christmas Could Not Go on as Planned
Due to the new mutant strain, Johnson announced that Great Britain could not continue with Christmas as planned. “Given the early evidence we have on this new variant of the virus, and the potential risk it poses, it is with a heavy heart that I must tell you we cannot continue with Christmas as planned,” he wrote on Twitter.
“We are sacrificing our chance to see loved ones this Christmas, so we have a better chance of protecting their lives so we can see them at future Christmases,” added Johnson.
“As Prime Minister, it is my duty to take the difficult decisions, to do what is right to protect the people of this country.” People are suggested to stay at home. “From Sunday 20 December, some areas in England will enter Tier 4: Stay At Home,” a tweet from the UK prime minister read.
In the press conference, Johnson said, “We will introduce new restrictions in the most effected areas, those parts of London, southeast and eastern part of London. They will enter a new tier 4, broadly equivalent to national restrictions.”
He said that residents in those areas must stay home and non-essential businesses must close. People have to work from home if they can, and they can’t enter or leave the area. They can only meet one person from another household in an outdoor space.
There is also new guidance on travel. “Although the new variant is concentrated in tier 4 area, it’s present at lower levels around the country. We are asking all people to stay local. Carefully consider whether to travel abroad. People in tier 4 cant travel abroad except for work,” said Johnson.
He added, “I’m afraid we must look again at Christmas. We must do what is right to protect the people of this country…it is with a very heavy heart that we can not continue with Christmas as planned. Those living in tier four areas should not mix with anyone outside their own household for Christmas.”
The rest of the country can have three households meet but that’s now limited to Christmas Day only. “There will be no relaxation on the 31st of January. People must not break the rule at New Year’s. That’s very, very important.”
He added: “I know how much emotion people invest in this time of year. How important it is. For instance for grandparents to see their grandchildren, for families to be together. We have said throughout this pandemic that we must and we will be guided by the science. When the science changes, we must change our response. When the virus changes it’s method of attack we must change our method of defense. I sincerely believe there is no alternative.”
Without the chances, said Johnson, “Infections would soar, hospitals would become overwhelmed, and many thousands more would lose their lives.”