New coronavirus mutation: what we know so far

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There’s a new coronavirus mutation worrying many. Here’s all we know for now

PM Johnson announced a lockdown in London and other parts of England following the identification of a new coronavirus mutation. Afterward, many European countries canceled flights from and to the U.K. Canada is also taking action, restricting travel from the U.K. and advising Canadians against flying to England. Moreover, Global Affairs Canada updated its requirements, commenting that authorities might impose additional requirements ‘without notice’.

PM Boris Johnson has confirmed that the new strain is 70 percent more transmissible. Yet he also stressed that ‘there’s no evidence’ to suggest neither that this new strain is more lethal, nor that it causes more severe ailments’. Moreover, scientists and health officials remind us how mutations are quite normal for any type of virus. In short, many were expecting such a new strain to appear. For example, Dr. Ian Brasg of Humber River Hospital: ‘it’s quite natural for a virus to mutate and develop variants, many of which pose no greater risk than the original virus’.

Just for caution, however, many countries have imposed a total ban of flights to or from the U.K. Among these are the Netherlands and Belgium. Germany’s Minister of Health Jens Spahn also confirmed the country is looking to restrict all travel to the U.K. and South Africa. Meanwhile, France and Ireland are imposing a temporary 48-hour ban.

The two most pressing questions are now: what makes this new strain more transmissible, and will it affect vaccines? To answer the second question, in short, ‘we need more evidence’, as confirmed by Lucy van Dorp, senior research fellow in microbial genomics working at UCL Genetics Institute. Yet a change to vaccine efficacy is a possibility we will have to reckon with. Regarding transmission, it seems the new coronavirus mutation affects the ‘spike’ protein and is related to an adaption of the virus. Some are calling the new strain a yellow flag that will force us to follow upon these new developments. Maybe this new strain will even tell us more about the coronavirus itself.