It was announced yesterday, a new COVID strain has been found and is growing quickly in some parts of England. Health Secretary, Matt Hancock said at least 60-different local authorities have recorded COVID-19 infections, caused by the new strain. So, how worried do we need to be?
As the UK is introduced to a new strain of COVID-19, many people are understandably becoming more scared – especially with the lockdown relaxation over Christmas. But, what we should remember is – this is what viruses do.
A mutating virus
When viruses mutate and develop, most of the time it is a meaningless change and more often than not, the new strain just dies out. However, there are certain times when a new winning formula is developed.
The new strain of Coronavirus has been detected in the south of England, but there isn’t yet any clear-cut evidence to suggest we are at risk of transmitting the virus more easily, or will receive more serious symptoms.
Despite this, Matt Hancock assured MPs the World Health Organisation has been notified and UK scientists are carrying out detailed studies. There is nothing to suggest – at the moment – the new strain is worse, or that the new vaccine will no longer work.
There are a few reasons we should keep an eye on a new mutation of a virus:
- Levels of the new strain can be higher in different areas
- To find out how it is mutating
Scientists will be looking into whether or not the new strain of Coronavirus could have mutated to spread more easily, or not. Many experiments will need to be carried out in advanced labs, to find out the answer to this question.
Concern is also being raised around those who caught the first strain of Coronavirus and survived; their blood was less effective in attacking that strain, so what does it mean this time round?
“It has a surprisingly large number of mutations, more than we would expect, and a few look interesting,” Prof Nick Loman from the COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) Consortium told James Gallagher, Health and Science Correspondent at BBC News.
There is a simple rule to understanding the new strain – finding out if the behaviour has changed. This is crucial. Viruses change and mutate all the time; and so far, we have been given the scare – not the answer.
What happens next?
We must continue to act responsibly. Maintaining social distancing, the regular use of hand sanitiser and face masks, as well as washing hands and only going outside of the home if we need too. This includes keeping to the same rules over the festive period.
Matt Hancock has announced that following an initial analysis of the new strain suggests it is growing faster than the existing variant, which should serve as a warning to everyone.
We have seen mass changes in viruses before, which is why we regularly take the flu vaccine for example. If the results of new testing shows the Coronavirus strain is evolving in this way, we may have to keep up to date with our vaccines. But for now, we just don’t know.
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