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New coronavirus variant that spreads faster found in the UK

New coronavirus variant that spreads faster found in the UK
LONDON, DEC 15 (AGENCIES) | Publish Date: 12/15/2020 12:10:20 PM IST

Britain’s capital-- London will be placed under the highest level of coronavirus restrictions from Wednesday amid a “very sharp” spike in COVID-19 cases in London and its surrounding areas as a new variant of coronavirus was identified and responsible for the “faster spread”, the UK government announced in Parliament on Monday.

The UK Health Secretary, Matt Hancock told the parliament that “swift and decisive” actions were needed as the doubling rate of COVID-19 has hit just in seven days in several parts of London.

“I must stress at this point that there is currently nothing to suggest that the variant is more likely to cause serious disease, and the latest clinical advice is that it’s highly unlikely that this mutation would fail to respond to a vaccine,” he added. Consequently,  London will move to Tier 3 “very high alert” local restrictions on Wednesday. Under the Tier 3 restrictions, all hospitality venues, including restaurants, pubs, bars, cafes will be shut except for takeout and delivery. 

Indoor entertainment venues- such as bowling alleys and cinemas - will stay closed. People will not be allowed to travel to and from tier three areas.

Residents in London will also not be able to meet in private gardens and other outdoor venues. They may meet up to six people outside at parks, public gardens, or sports facilities. Retailers will be able to stay open.

“We do not know the extent to which this is because of the new variant but no matter its cause, we have to take swift and decisive action which unfortunately is absolutely essential to control this deadly disease while the vaccine is rolled out We must act now to shift the curve because when the virus moves quickly, we must move quickly too,” Hancock said.

He said that experts had identified over 1,000 cases with the variant, predominantly in the south of England.

Meanwhile, the UK health officials have notified the World Health Organisation (WHO) about the new variant as expert analysis continues.

However, multiple experts have said that the variant of coronavirus was not a that big a cause of concern and is unlikely to derail efforts to fight the pandemic.

“Just because there has been a small change in the virus’ genetic makeup this does not mean it is any more virulent, nor that vaccines won’t be effective,” said Tom Solomon, professor of neurology at the University of Liverpool.

“The emergence of different coronavirus strains...is neither cause for panic nor unexpected,” Dr Zania Stamataki, a viral immunologist at the University of Birmingham said.

The outbreak of a new coronavirus variant in  London has come at a time when the country has begun the vaccination drive. The vaccine that is being supplied to Europe, and all of the UKs 40 million doses (to be delivered in stages with the whole order completed by the end of 2021) come from Pfizer’s manufacturing hub in Puurs, Belgium.

 

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