From headlines on vaccines to now mutated virus leading to a lockdown, are we staring at pandemic 2.0? Not fear-mongering just stating the facts. Look at the trends and numbers, what we face right now is an advanced and scarier version of the coronavirus and what we’re entering is a new phase of the pandemic. This newly mutated virus is trolling Britain as they were already pushed to the brink with a second wave of coronavirus this winter.
Let’s begin with the numbers as of 21st of December, the total number of coronavirus cases the world over is well above 77 million. The deaths of more than 1.7 million, two countries have recorded more than 10 million cases- The United States and India. But the country making the headlines now is the United Kingdom. What’s happening there? The mutation of the coronavirus. A new version has emerged that spreads faster. As we said, mutations are normal, all viruses mutate all the time. The coronavirus has also been mutating all over the world. There are at least 4 000 variants of the coronavirus. Experts say the mutation began in china.
New strains of the virus have been seen across the world. the strain found in Britain is called the 6970 deletions, meaning this variant has missing letters in the genetic code. The strain was picked up in danish minks too. It was also found in Thailand, in Germany, and then in England. So, what does this mutation mean for you and me?
Question number one- Is the mutated virus scarier? yes and no. Data so far does not raise the mortality rate or the risk of severe illness but yes, there is a ‘but.’ The mutated virus found in the UK spreads faster. The new variant not only moves faster in terms of transmission but it has also become the dominant variant now. This mutant virus is now spreading in such a way that it precedes all the other variants and is transmitting faster and spreading wider.
So, the worry here is about rising infections because it transmits fast, and given that it’s the holiday season many people boarded flights before the travel bans were put in place. The mutated virus may have already travelled to other parts of the globe. Following suit, Denmark, Australia, and the Netherlands have also found strains of this mutated virus among citizens. More infections may lead to more hospitalization and that’s something that no country, rich or poor, can afford right now after months of the pandemic.
Question number two- Will the vaccines be able to protect us from the mutated virus? The answer is yes, thankfully the vaccines will still work. Experts say the coronavirus vaccine will be able to produce a whole range of antibodies. One of the experts describes it as follows. He compared these antibodies to a thousand big guns pointed at a virus so it is unlikely that a mutated virus will be able to escape the fire. A vaccine should still be effective and speaking of vaccines what about India? India is expected to start its vaccination drive next month.
The government has already prioritized 30 crore people, this includes health workers, frontline workers, people about 50 years of age, and those who are below 50 but have certain diseases. India is considering the emergency authorization of the FISA vaccine, the oxford AstraZeneca shot, and the Bharat biotech candidate. Currently, the UK, the US, Canada, Russia, and China are the countries that have begun vaccination for their population. Other countries have given regulatory approvals and they’re waiting for their first batch of shots. This list includes Switzerland, Malaysia, Bahrain, Mexico, and the United Arab Emirates.
So, this is where the entire globe is standing at the moment. As we round up our year, the finding of a vaccine was by far the biggest challenge of this year. Now that this has been overcome, this is such a huge achievement that requires our recognition and praise for being able to get it in such a short span of time. But the pandemic is not over. Producing, transporting, storing, administering this vaccine is going to be a herculean task and now we have a mutant version spreading with faster infections, there are a fresh lockdown and a travel ban. The challenge before us is to not let history repeat itself.