Just weeks after the UK government suggested Coronavirus may “mutate” to survive, making the first generation of vaccines obsolete, the health secretary announced the discovery of a new strain, but insisted it was nothing to worry about.
At least 1,000 cases of the new strain of Covid-19 have been detected in south-east England and London in the past few days and show the virus had mutated, Britain’s health minister Matt Hancock said. The Tory politician even suggested the new strain may be the reason for the sudden rise in case numbers in London which has seen the city placed back into ‘tier three’, the harshest lockdown level in England.
The new strain has now been detected in 60 areas of England and was first detected in Kent. The World Health Organisation has been informed.
Hancock insisted the emergence of the new strain was not cause for concern because it was not clear that it would be any more dangerous or cause more serious coronavirus symptoms, reports the Sky News.
The revelation comes just weeks after one of the UK government’s top advisors said in a press conference that it was possible the coronavirus would indeed mutate, especially as it attempted to survive the rollout of vaccines. Government Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance said it was possible the coronavirus would be adaptable enough to keep evolving like the flu virus does, meaning new vaccines would possibly be needed frequently and forever.
UK Govt: Lockdown Likely to Last 12+ Months, ‘Hard Winter’ Coming, Repeated Vaccinations May be Required https://t.co/zEDSi9g6k1
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) November 27, 2020
As Breitbart London reported in November, Vallance said: “it is possible that as the vaccines work, and they put pressures on the virus, that the virus mutates and other forms arise that would require new vaccines in due course. So I don’t think it is the case that the vaccines we have now will be the ones we have forever, we may have to get new ones.”
The new mutation comes just a week after the first approved coronavirus vaccination programme in the world started in the United Kingdom. There is no suggestion the two events are linked.
Mutation of the virus, as alluded to by Vallance, does raise concerns about how long-lived the vaccine will be, however. Hancock said it was “highly unlikely” the mutation would “fail to respond to a vaccine”.
Britain’s Daily Telegraph presented a slightly different view, however, when it noted the Pfizer vaccine presently being rolled out worked because it taught the human body to recognise the ‘spike protein’ of the virus, and it was exactly this part of the virus that changes. The paper cited the remarks of a British academic, Professor Calum Semple, of Liverpool University, who said the vaccine could be modified in just weeks to remain effective with the mutated virus.
Professor Semple said: “this is not a disaster. This isn’t a breakdown in all our plans. This is just what we expect with a new virus, and it’s what the scientists and the doctors have come to understand, and we will adapt… What I can say is that coronavirus, like many other viruses, mutate all the time.
“And without the presence of community immunity – that’s because we don’t have herd immunity and won’t have for many, many months – the virus essentially is free to change and become more comfortable with the humans with which it is living.”
While this mutation of Covid-19 appears to be spreading fast in England, it is not by any means the first such mutation for coronavirus. In fact, Britain’s state broadcaster the BBC reports coronavirus has so far mutated twice a month, and cases of coronavirus being detected today are 25 developments away from the first ones detected in China a year ago.