What is the new strain of COVID-19?

Pandemic Dec 30, 2020

We blamed our miseries on the year 2020 and desperately waited for 2021 hoping it might be easier. But this year will leave us without dropping one last Bomb.

The vaccine for the coronavirus is here but so is its mutant. First recorded in Kent, a county in South East England on September 20, the VUI- 202012/01 (Variant Under Investigation) has been stated to be 70% more transmissible than its predecessor. Experts claim that they saw this coming as viruses copy their genomes every time they replicate and since the coronavirus has affected millions of people it has had just as many opportunities to do that. To understand the nature of the mutant, let's imagine the infamous image of the coronavirus. The pointed barbs on the surface are called “spike proteins” that allow the viruses to penetrate the host cells and cause infections. So far 23 mutations have been found in the virus altering 4 viral proteins. The vaccine targets these spike proteins.  Unfortunately, the new mutant has also changed the structure of the spike proteins, which raises a major question- will the vaccine work on the mutant?

The Prime Minister of UK Boris Johnson has assured that the new virus strain will not negate the effectiveness of the vaccine. Experts agree with this opinion to some level; however, they are still waiting for more data to make a final statement. The currently approved vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna work by training our immune system against the spike protein detected in the previous structure of the virus. Therefore, scientists suspect that the vaccines might not be completely “ineffective” but will be “less effective” against the new strain.

UK, the first nation to begin the vaccination process from 7th December, announced the existence of the new mutant on December 14th. From there, it has spread to Denmark, Netherlands, Italy, and Australia. A whole other mutant strain has also been found in South Africa. Much of the UK is now under another lockdown imposed to control the new strain of the virus.

Like several other countries, India has suspended all flights to and from the UK from 22nd to 31st December. Passengers from UK transit flights must undergo an RT-PCR test. Passengers tested positive will have to stay in 7 days of institutional quarantine and those who are tested negative will also be quarantined for 7 days.

The new strain of the virus has clearly shattered our hopes for a better year. However, it still depends on us. Following the safety protocols- wearing masks, sanitizing our hands, and leaving our homes only when it's necessary will control the spread of the virus and will end this fight soon.

This article has been written by Sakshi Baoker for The Paradigm

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