Covid update: Variant is ‘causing people to be concerned’ – details on Indian strain
Newsnight: Expert discusses Covid ‘memorials’
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Unlike the Brazilian or South African coronavirus variants of concern, information is still being gathered around the Indian Covid mutation, but officials suspect the strain has troublesome features. A professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, Paul Hunter, explained why this particular strain has raised a few eyebrows. The Indian Covid variant has two “escape mutations” – E484Q and L452R – which are “causing people to be concerned”.
Professor Hunter said: “There’s laboratory evidence that both of these are escape mutations.
“Basically, applying what we know about other human coronaviruses would suggest that this is going to be even less controlled by vaccine.”
However, until more checks are done, nobody knows this for certain.
At present, Covid cases are soaring in India, with infections heading north of 14.5 million.
Over 176,000 people have lost their lives to coronavirus in the South Asian country, reported Johns Hopkins University.
Professor Hunter continued: “If you think about where the main variants have arisen – South Africa, the UK, California, Brazil, and now India – all of these are countries have really struggled to keep case numbers down.
“So it’s not surprising. India has got a huge pandemic, and therefore that’s where you’re going to be getting the variant.”
The professor admitted there is a “big, big anxiety” as to whether this Indian variant will be problematic for us here in the UK.
What are escape mutations?
A research paper published in the British Medical Journal explained what an escape mutation is.
An escape mutation “slips past the body’s immune defences”, meaning it’s able to infect more cells, more easily.
Regarding the Indian Covid strain, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove – the technical lead at the World Health Organisation (WHO) – said: “This is a variant of interest we are following.
“Having two of these mutations, which have been seen in other variants around the world, are concerning.”
The fear is that the Covid variant might be more transmissible and could possibly stunt the ability of vaccines to reduce the spread.
So far, the UK has done exceedingly well in deploying the vaccine to its population.
More than 32,693,527 people have received their first Covid vaccination, and over 9,416,968 people have had their second vaccine.
There has been some concern over the blood-clotting cases in the AstraZeneca vaccine, but the risk is extremely low.
The number of people in the UK who have tested positive, been admitted to hospital, or passed away from a Covid infection has decreased from last week.
Amidst the gradual easing of lockdown, data is yet to reflect if the UK is still on track to lift even more restriction in a month’s time.
Right now, up to six people in one group are allowed to visit restaurants and bars with outdoor seating.
Zoos, non-essential shops and outdoor swimming pools have all opened their doors too.
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