Source: United Kingdom – Executive Government & Departments
The Prime Minister and the Chief Medical Officer made a statement today about new Tier 4 restrictions, the new SARS-CoV-2 variant and updated guidance over Christmas.
Dr Michael Head, Senior Research Fellow in Global Health, University of Southampton, said:
“The escalating case numbers mean that dramatic interventions are essential, so the new announcements are important and will help to provide some element of control on the national landscape. However, it has been obvious for some time that mixing of multiple households over the Christmas period will lead to a very difficult January. Therefore, this level of restrictions is what should have been implemented at the time of the previous Christmas announcements, regardless of the impact of this new variant.
“There are several other countries that have strong measures in place over Christmas, and there is plenty of precedent where large public festivals that have been cancelled or curtailed due to COVID-19, such as the Hajj in Saudi Arabia being scaled right back, and a ban on household mixing during Passover in Israel.”
Dr Jeffrey Barrett, Director of the Covid Genomics Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said:
“This new variant is very concerning, and is unlike anything we have seen so far in the pandemic. The new restrictions announced today are an entirely justified response to the rapidly developing situation. Detecting new variants like this is one of the key missions of the Covid-19 Genomics Consortium in the UK. The high level of genomic surveillance we have had to date has helped detect and respond to this variant as quickly as possible. We will continue to monitor this and other variants in the weeks and months to come.”
Dr Simon Clarke, Associate Professor in Cellular Microbiology at the University of Reading, said:
“Viruses mutate constantly. The coronavirus has mutated many times over the last year. This helps scientists to track how infections are spreading. For example, we know that most of the infections in the UK in the first wave came not directly from China but from Europe, where a new variant emerged that was different from the strain in Wuhan.
“Government scientists have identified now that there are 17 linked mutations in the genetic code of the virus that seem to make this new strain more infectious. It has been suggested that changes to the virus surface spikes may allow it to bind onto cells more easily. However there isn’t evidence yet that the new virus is more or less dangerous in terms of its ability to cause disease. Sadly, we will have to wait and see if hospitalisations and deaths increase or decrease to find out.”
Prof Daniel Altmann, Professor of Immunology, Imperial College London, said:
“From the graphics as presented, this variant sequence has certainly become more prevalent in the southeast, correlating with an upturn in caseload. As far as I can see this greatly strengthens the case for all to get vaccinated as soon as possible: the vaccines induce neutralising antibodies to several parts of spike (‘epitopes’) and most of these would be unchanged by the mutations – so the vaccines will still work.”
Prof Ravindra Gupta, Professor of Clinical Microbiology, University of Cambridge, said:
“The news, although disappointing for many, is the most appropriate given the speed at which the new variant has spread. The variant has a number of concerning mutations that mean we should control transmission through social restrictions whilst we work to learn more about the impact of these mutations on how the virus behaves. We should seriously consider regional targeting of the vaccine to control spread.”
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