This new strain of COVID-19 is no deadlier than the original virus, nor does it appear to make people any more ill; but it is more contagious and does seem to spread more easily. That characteristic has spooked the British government into basically canceling Christmas for the entire country. The researchers believe the vaccine developed by Pfizer will still be effective, but scientists are now scrambling to confirm that.
From a CNN report:
According to Whitty, the new variant is responsible for 60% of infections in London, which have nearly doubled in the last week.
Earlier, he said “urgent work” is underway to establish whether the new strain, prevalent in the southeast of England, can cause a higher mortality rate.
“There is no current evidence to suggest the new strain causes a higher mortality rate or that it affects vaccines and treatments although urgent work is underway to confirm this,” Whitty said in a statement.
There doesn’t appear to be any large-scale virus fatigue, as there is in America. But given these restrictions, expect resistance soon.
As a result, non-essential shops, gyms, cinemas, hairdressers and bowling alleys will be forced to close for two weeks, while people will be restricted to meeting one other person from another household in an outdoor public space.
A “bubble” policy, allowing up to three households to meet up over the holiday period, will be severely curtailed and will only apply on Christmas Day, Johnson said.He added that he “bitterly regretted” the changes, but insisted the changes were “necessary.”
Don’t be surprised if that number, the claim of 70 percent faster spreading of the virus, is revised downward in the near future. That estimate is based only on “preliminary modeling” which involves only a couple thousand cases. Obviously, as more data become available, the model will become more accurate. We can really only know how fast the new variant spreads after a month or two of observation & new data collection.
Meanwhile, one might ask why this makes any difference? If the vaccine is still effective against this newest strain (yet to be proven) and the mortality rate is no greater, why then all the concern?
The logic is the faster the coronavirus spreads, the greater the number of people who become infected should become ill. More ill people ultimately mean more hospital beds will be needed. And while the percentage of severely ill people will probably stay steady, more infections could translate into a higher number of seriously ill and dead people.
So Boris Johnson decided to act; however, shutting down the country for a few weeks under a new lockdown won’t help or change anything. The new variant will still be present whenever the lockdowns end. That’s one lesson the United States learned from our lockdowns here last Spring. And once the virus starts infecting people again, we will enter into the same cycle as before: reopening, followed by restrictions, followed by relaxed restrictions, followed by another lockdown. ✪