The UK was the first country to approve the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. However, experts have raised concerns as a new variant of coronavirus has been reported in the country.
Various nations have imposed travel bans on the UK as the new variant is rapidly spreading. The government’s advisers on new infections have “moderate” confidence that it is more able to transmit than other variants.
Why experts are concerned?
According to a report by the BBC, three factors have raised concerns:
- It is rapidly replacing other versions of the virus
- It has mutations that affect the part of the virus likely to be important
- Some of those mutations have already been shown in the lab to increase the ability of the virus to infect cells
“Laboratory experiments are required, but do you want to wait for weeks or months [to see the results and take action to limit the spread]? Probably not in these circumstances,” Prof Nick Loman, from the Covid-19 Genomics UK Consortium, told BBC’s health correspondent.
How much faster is it spreading?
According to the sources, the new variant was first detected in September. Around a quarter of cases in London were the new variant in November.
MK LHL testing data showing increasing prevalence of H69/V70 variant in positive test data – which is detected incidentally by the commonly used 3-gene PCR test. pic.twitter.com/1U0pVR9Bhs
— Tony Cox (@The_Soup_Dragon) December 19, 2020
In the tree below, the UK variant is in green at the top. The SA variant is the one with large yellow circles nearer the bottom.
Though it's a bit hard to see in this tree, they are quite distant genetically: they have many mutations they do not share!
— Dr Emma Hodcroft (@firefoxx66) December 19, 2020