Virus Mutates Causing Concerns And Spike In Infections
The biggest fear after the coronavirus was declared a global pandemic was the possibility of a second wave. Now that the second wave has become a reality due in part to relaxed protocols, the next fear is complications sparked by the mutation of the virus. This appears to have surfaced in London and Southern England this past week.
A number of European countries have banned, or are planning to ban, travel from the UK to prevent the spread of a more infectious mutated coronavirus.
France has now joined Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy by suspending flights and trains to and from the UK.
Ireland too, has restricted flights and ferries and Germany will also stop flights from the UK from midnight forward.
The new variant virus has spread quickly in London and south-east England and has now been blamed for a dramatic spike in infections.
PM Boris Johnson Cancels Relaxed Christmas Restrictions
In response to the news of a mutated virus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday introduced a new tier four level of restrictions, cancelling a planned relaxation of rules over the Christmas period for millions of people.
70% More Transmissible
Top health officials said that there was no evidence the new variant was more deadly, or would react differently to vaccines, but it was proving to be up to 70% more transmissible.
While a mutated virus sounds frightening, it is what viruses do. However, viruses don't always get it right. It can alter itself in a way that will make it less effective at infecting us and the new variant can just die out.
To date, there is no clear evidence the new variant of coronavirus detected in south-east England is more deadly, able to cause more serious symptoms or render the vaccine useless.
Two Mutations Observed
So far, two notable mutations have been observed. (Mutations N501 and a H69/V70 deletion mutation.) Both are found in the crucial spike protein, which is the key the virus uses to unlock the doorway into our body's cells in order to hijack them.
Evolved In Animals -- Jumped To Humans
This is a virus that evolved in animals and made the jump to infecting people around a year ago.
If researchers take a sample today and compare it to the first ones from Wuhan, China; there would be around 25 mutations separating them or about two mutations per month.
Coronavirus is still trying out different combinations of mutations to continue to infect humans. However, mass vaccinations now underway will soon put pressure on the virus and it will need to change in order to infect people who have already been immunized.
If the evolution of the virus relies on continuous mutation, we may have to regularly update the vaccines as we presently do with the annual flu shots to keep up with it.