By now we have all heard that India and many other countries have stopped operating airlines to and from the UK. The travel ban is likely to last until the end of December. The culprit behind this new travel restriction is the new variant of the COVID virus. Recently the UK announced the discovery of a new strain of SARS-CoV-2. This mutated virus has been named B117 virus or VUI2020/21 and it has scared virologists and healthcare experts in the UK and across the world.
And with the new COVID-19 vaccines almost ready to roll out, many people are asking if the vaccines would be effective against the new B117 virus.
Here is what we know about it.
The new COVID-19 strain in the UK
Recently the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared tough lockdown measures to be implemented in Britain during the holiday season between Christmas and New Year. This is in response to the new B117 virus that has recently emerged in the country.
Scientists and virologists have already started analyzing B117 virus and they do not like what they have found.
How is the new strain different from other COVID strains?
The new UK strain is not the only mutation of COVID-19 that is known to us. Viruses have a nasty habit of evolving fast in response to our immunity. Multiple strains already exist and are categorized into 4 groups- Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and delta.
The simple reason is that B117 virus is more contagious.
In the last few weeks, there has been a steady rise in the number of COVID infections in south and east England. Samples from infected people have exposed to the new virus. Already 1108 people have been infected with the new strain. Epidemiologists and virologists have found that B117 virus is 70% more transmissible than the other strains.
It has been observed that the nature of the proteins that help in the attachment of the virus has undergone a mutation. This new alteration of the coronavirus has increased the rate of transmission in human beings.
The reproduction number of this UK strain is also higher than other strains. Reproduction number refers to the number of people who can be infected from 1 infected person.
But there is good news. Experts have also found that the B117 virus does not cause a more severe infection than the other strains. Its only danger lies in the fact that it is more communicable.
Will vaccines immunize us against this strain?
The effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine is still in anticipation. However, scientists have already started new research into the vaccine’s efficacy in building an immune response to the B117 virus.
Will the new strain reach India?
Healthcare experts fear that the virus strain has already arrived in India. So far, health officials have confirmed that 4 people coming in from the UK, (2 in Kolkata, 1 in Tamil Nadu and 1 in Karnataka) have tested positive for the B117 virus. But confirmation hasn’t come in from the Government. Since India has suspended flights to and from the UK, it can be hoped that the new strain does not spread like wildfire in India.
The best way to combat any strain of COVID, according to the WHO, is to observe the COVID protocol. So let us continue wearing masks, sanitizing ourselves, and maintaining social distancing.