New Coronavirus Strain In UK: What Is It? Will Vaccine Have An Impact?

On Monday, India suspended all flights to and from the United Kingdom toll December 31. This move comes even as there are raging concerns over a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 that is “spreading & growing rapidly” there. Apart from India, several other countries too have suspended the UK flights and there have been travel restrictions put into place.

What is the new variant like?

This new variant was identified in genomic surveillance by COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK).

It is a result of a number of mutations in the spike protein of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, as well as mutations in other genomic regions of the RNA virus. There have been preliminary analysis done on it that reveals that it is more transmissible than all the other previously circulating variants.

COG-UK said one of these mutations – the “N501Y” is basically an area of the spike protein that helps in binding a key protein in the human cell, the ACE2 receptor. Experts believe that this is the reason why it has become quite serious. “Efforts are underway to confirm whether or not any of these mutations are contributing to increased transmission,” the consortium said.

Public Health England (PHE) has already announced that there have been 1,108 cases with this variant as of December 13, “predominantly in the South and East of England”. “PHE is working with partners to investigate and plans to share its findings over the next 2 weeks,” it said.

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What impact will the vaccine have?

UK authorities said that work is going on in order to decode this mutation. However, there are no reasons to believe that a vaccine will not be able to protect people against this. “There is currently no evidence to suggest that the Pfizer vaccine would not protect people against the new strain,” PHE said.