UK has announced concerns regarding the new variant of COVID-19 that has been detected. While speaking to the media, UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced that there shall be an interim ban on flights from 6 countries that have been brought to the attention which has detected a new variant of the virus.
Identified by the name B.1.1.529 is currently a Variant under Investigation (VuI) as shared by UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). They issued a statement detailing what’s known about the virus, “The variant includes a large number of spike protein mutations as well as mutations in other parts of the viral genome. These are potentially biologically significant mutations that may change the behavior of the virus with regards to vaccines, treatments, and transmissibility. More investigation is required,”
The health secretary announced through Twitter the government’s decision to add 6 African Countries to the red list, and flights will be temporarily banned, and UK nationals traveling from or to the country must undergo quarantine.
He also added that they are investigating the new variant, however; greater precaution is required from the public until more data is available on it.
We are taking precautionary action to protect public health and the progress of our vaccine rollout at a critical moment as we enter winter, and we are monitoring the situation closely,” he added.
The variant has been identified as one of serious concern. The World Health Organization (WHO) is also expected to convene a meeting on it urgently in a day. The variant has been found in Botswana which has over 32 mutations. They have shown the characteristics of high transmission and resistance to vaccines.
“We don`t know very much about this yet. What we do know is that this variant has a large number of mutations. And the concern is that when you have so many mutations, it can have an impact on how the virus behaves,” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO`s the technical lead on Covid-19, said in a briefing.
The strain of the virus has also more frequent changes in the spike protein, as compared to the other variants, as per Russian news reports.
South African health agencies have also taken note of the activity, and are looking for ways to contain its spread.
The same variant B.1.1.529 has also reportedly been found in Hong Kong. It was detected in two men who were quarantined in Regal Airport Hotel in Chek Lap Kok, one of whom had just returned from South Africa. It is speculated that the person had transmitted the virus to the man in the hotel room in a nearby room.