The World Health Organization is meeting to assess the significance of the new B.126.96.36.1999 variant of the coronavirus, the B.188.8.131.529 variant first detected in cases in Botswana, South Africa and Hong Kong.
However, it has not yet been called a form of anxiety.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said he was “deeply concerned” by the version, which has led the UK to add six countries to its red travel list.
But how is this new variant different from the previous version and how dangerous is it?
– When did it first appear?
Scientists first became aware of the new strain on 23 November after samples from South Africa, Hong Kong and then Botswana were uploaded to a coronavirus tracking website. A total of 59 samples have been uploaded on the website so far.
Three samples are from Hong Kong, three are from Botswana and the rest are from South Africa.
Outlining South Africa’s position, a senior scientist said: “If we look at the results up to a week ago, in many areas less than 1 percent of people were testing positive. In some parts it was very dramatic. increased to 6 percent in the last few days, and so I worry about people coming in very quickly [in the UK] Now.”
– Are there any cases in Ireland?
Currently, there are no cases in Ireland or the UK, or anywhere in Europe.
The Health Department has confirmed that it is monitoring B.1.1.529.
A spokesman for the department said: “To date, no such case has been reported in Europe, but the health minister is very concerned.”
– What does this mean for travel?
There are no new Irish travel restrictions in place yet, but Irish officials say they are in touch with their Northern Irish and British counterparts. Flights to the UK from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe are suspended from Friday afternoon and all six countries will be added to the UK’s red list.
– What does this mean for passengers?
The UK and Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive said on Thursday that UK and Irish residents who arrived in England between Friday afternoon and 4 a.m. Sunday, and who have been in six countries within the past 10 days, would be allowed 10 days Will have to stay home and take an NHS PCR test on Day 2 and Day 8 even if they already have a lateral flow test booked.
Travelers – including UK and Irish residents – arriving from 4am on Sunday will have to book and pay for a government-approved hotel and quarantine for 10 days. They will have to take the exam on the second day and also on the eighth day.
Direct flights to the UK from six countries are being temporarily banned until 4am on Sunday, once quarantine hotels are set up.
From the afternoon of Friday 26 November, non-Britains and Irishmen who have visited the countries in the past 10 days will be denied entry into England.
– How is it different from other variants?
Despite being tracked only for the past three days, the virus has already been identified as having 30 different mutations. By comparison, this is twice the delta version, which has been the most prominent version in Ireland over the past few months.
Mutations include features seen in all other variants, but also traits that have not been observed before.“What we do know is that there is a significant number of mutations, probably double the number of mutations we have seen in the delta variant,” UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid told broadcasters on Thursday evening.
“And that would suggest that it may be more permeable and that the current vaccines that we have in place may be less effective.”
Will vaccines protect people from this?
It is too early to say that. Mutations could potentially make the variant more transmissible and evade the protection offered by prior infection or vaccination.
– Is it classified as “anxiety type”?
Not yet, because scientists do not have enough evidence on its level of transmittance, however, some have said they are concerned.
Professor Ravi Gupta, Professor of Clinical Microbiology at the University of Cambridge, said: “There are signs of a cumulative mutation in B.1.1.529 indicating that it has emerged in a chronic infection.
“B.184.108.40.2069 is certainly of significant concern depending on the mutation present. Many have been shown to affect binding by neutralizing antibodies, and some have been shown to increase or decrease the ability of the virus to enter cells. They are known to fuse together to allow the cell-cell spread.”
Professor Neil Ferguson, a member of the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said: “Version b.220.127.116.119 has an unprecedented number of mutations in the spike protein gene, the protein that is the target of most vaccines.
“There is therefore a concern that this variant may have a greater ability to evade prior immunity than the previous variant.
“However, we do not yet have a reliable estimate of the extent to which B.1.1529 may be more permeable or more resistant to vaccines, so it is necessary to be able to provide an evidence-based assessment of risk.” Too early. Pose.”
This is known as the “version under surveillance,” which means scientists believe it may pose a risk in the future, but its implications are unclear.
– How concerned should we be about this version?
Scientists are eager to obtain live virus cultures so it can be investigated, but this takes time. It can take at least seven to 10 days for enough virus to develop that can be shared with other scientists so they can study how it mutates and changes.
Officials will now also have to wait for the data to come from South Africa. They expect the earliest evidence to come in two to three weeks, but it could be as long as four to six weeks.
– Can it overtake the flagship Delta version?
UCC professor Liam Fanning has said that for the new edition to become a major edition in Ireland, should it come here, it has “too much of a limit to overtake the delta”.
“We know that vaccines cover us against delta, but this new virus, the threshold that vaccines give us to avoid immunity to it is exceptionally high,” he told RTE.
“While it can evade certain aspects of our immune system, we have several weapons of our immune system that target the virus at different sites, so it is very unlikely that the virus will modify … There are 20 sites that are not covered by antibodies but by T cells, so it would be very unlikely that we would be exposed to it as if it were a new virus,” Prof Fanning said.
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