Two new variants of novel coronavirus have been discovered in the UK, an advisory scientific committee of the UK government said on February 9.
Photo by Reuters
One of the variants, first discovered in Bristol, is a variant of the B.1.1.7 variant novel coronavirus previously discovered in the UK.
The mutated virus has a mutation called E484K, which occurs in the virus’s spike protein and is similar to the variant found in South Africa and Brazil.
The British government’s scientific team has designated the mutated virus as a “variant of concern”.
So far, the British government has put four mutated viruses on the list, with the remaining three — one discovered in the UK last year and two in South Africa and Brazil.
A new variant of the virus was found in Liverpool and the team has designated it as an “under investigation variant”.
Public Health England has now confirmed 76 cases of the two newly discovered variants.
As previously reported by the BBC, some studies have suggested that the “E484K” mutation may help the virus evade the antibody part of the immune system, and scientists are already investigating the impact of the mutation on the vaccine.
But British health officials said they were confident of the vaccine’s effectiveness and that it was “fully capable of dealing with mutated viruses”.
Experts have told the BBC that even in a worst-case scenario, the vaccine could be redesigned and tweaked over weeks or months if necessary to make it work better with the virus.
In addition to the mutation found in the UK, the mutation novel coronavirus found in South Africa has also appeared in the UK.
Of the 170 confirmed cases of the South African strain in Britain, 18 had neither travel records nor contact with anyone else with travel records, The Guardian said.
Posters on London streets. Photograph: The Paper
Initial clinical trials involving 2,026 volunteers have shown that the new Crown vaccine from Oxford University and AstraZeneca appears to be ineffective against the mutated virus found in South Africa, the Financial Times reported on Monday.
South Africa has stopped using the vaccine while scientists study its effectiveness against the mutated virus.
South Africa says it will reintroduce the AstraZeneca vaccine if studies show it is effective in more severe cases.
The UK has further tightened travel restrictions in response to the worsening outbreak.
Health Secretary Michael Hancock announced Monday that anyone entering England from high-risk countries will be quarantined in a hotel for 10 days at their own expense, while mandatory virus testing will be required, The Guardian reported. Those who lie or conceal their travel records will face tough penalties.
Hancock said the move was aimed at stopping the mutant virus from entering the UK.
Those who refuse to be tested entering the UK face fines of £1,000, those who refuse to be quarantined face fines of £5,000 to £10,000 and those who conceal travel records to high-risk areas face up to 10 years in prison, he said.
According to the UK’s Department of Health, 3,972148 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in the UK by 0:00 local time on February 10, with 113,850 deaths occurring within 28 days of diagnosis.