As the Philippines waits for the arrival of the COVID vaccine, we hear that a new variant of the COVID-19 virus has surfaced int he UK and in other parts of the world. This is news we don’t actually need- but something we need to prep for, nonetheless. Here are the top five things you need to know about the mutated virus.
1. The new strain is potentially 70% more contagious than earlier ones and could prolong the coronavirus pandemic
On Dec. 14, British authorities reported to the World Health Organization that a new variant of the COVID-19 virus had been identified. Genetic evidence suggests the strain first detected in the U.K. emerged in September but only circulated at very low levels until mid-November.
2. The new COVID-19 variant identified in the U.K.
It has been found in a number of European countries, including Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands and France. In the Asia Pacific region, the variant has already reached the shores of Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia.
3. Virus mutations occur naturally all the time as they replicate inside their host
This also happens in influenza viruses. WHO officials said coronavirus mutations had so far been much slower than with influenza and that even the new UK variant remained much less transmissible than other diseases like mumps. There is no evidence that the new strain causes more severe illness or higher mortality, but it does appear to be passed on significantly more easily. Determining how dangerous it is may require two months or more of additional research.
4. It is not clear if the approved vaccines against COVID-19 will work in battling the new strain
The World Health Organization said in a statement this week: “There is not enough information at present to determine if this variant is associated with any change in [the] severity of clinical disease, antibody response or vaccine efficacy”. But the WHO said vaccines developed to combat COVID-19 should handle the new variants as well. Although checks were underway to ensure this was the case.
5. Countries are again tightening their borders
Japan joined other Asian countries and territories including Singapore, the Philippines, South Korea, India and Hong Kong in announcing entry bans on people arriving from the U.K. This trend will most likely continue for other countries which have recorded incidences of the new strain.