DCR World & Health: Britain tightens lockdowns due to virus mutation with significantly faster transmission rates.☕☕☕

Ayyyeee… What’s Goodie Everyone. So I got some tea and it involves Britain and the coronavirus.

Britain announced tightened pandemic restrictions on Saturday that returned London and parts of the country to virtual lockdown and reversed earlier promises for relaxed rules over the holidays.

A new mutation, or variant, was first detected in southeast England in September and is quickly becoming the dominant strain in London and other regions in Britain. Experts claim that it doesn’t appear more deadly or resistant to vaccines. At a news conference British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the new variant “may be up to 70 percent more transmissible” than previous versions of the virus here.

This is spreading very fast,” PM Johnson says while announcing local and international travel bans and other extreme measures for about 18 million people in England beginning on Sunday. Wales and Scotland followed with their own tightened restrictions, including banning all but essential movement around the isle. A lot of countries have reimposed tough social distancing measures as coronavirus cases roared back in second and third waves. Britain, however, appears to be the first to point to a specific coronavirus variant for a surge in infections and the need to bring back the toughest measures.

The researchers stressed that this kind of mutation is not surprising. Sharon Peacock, director of the Covid-19 Genomics UK Consortium and a professor of microbiology at the University of Cambridge, stressed that thousands of mutations in the coronavirus have been identified since it emerged. “The vast number have no impact,” she said. “Mutations are a part of natural life.” Many viruses mutate and evolve, becoming more transmissible but less deadly. But to date, the decline in mortality among infected people during the pandemic has been attributed to improvements in treatments.

Now London and the southeast and east of England will enter the highest level of “Tier 4” restrictions, meaning all nonessential shops will be closed, as will gyms, hair salons, pubs, restaurants and theaters. Travel to and out of the Tier 4 areas will not be allowed. People should leave their homes only to shop for food and medicines, attend medical appointments, take outdoor exercise and travel to and from work, if they cannot work from home. Gatherings are banned, though there are exceptions for religious services. People will be able to meet only one other person from another household in a indoor space.

Christmas gatherings of more than one family will be banned in the Tier 4 zone, but permitted for one day in other areas.

British scientists have been following the spread of the new variant close to three months, seeing it in samples taken from more than 1,100 people, most of whom lived in the southeast of England.

John Edmunds who is an infectious diseases expert at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, told reporters that scientists need to answer three questions: Is the variant more deadly, can it bypass previous infection antibodies or vaccination, and is it transmissible?
“At present we have no information on the first two questions, but over the last few days we have begun to get an answer for the third, and the answer is very bad news,” he said. “It looks like this virus is significantly more infectious than the previous strains.”

The chief science adviser said there were 23 different mutations in this new variant. Most were in a segment of the virus’s genome that encodes for the spike protein, the protruding structure essential to the pathogen’s ability to bind with the receptor cells in a person who gets exposed and then infected.

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