UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said at least 60 different local authorities found COVID infections due to the new strain.
The UK was the first country to approve the rollout of COVID19 vaccines but they might be facing a new battle with the disease after a new variant of it was found in some parts of the country. The new variant is also growing faster in those places.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said at least 60 different local authorities found COVID infections due to the new strain. The World Health Organization (WHO) was informed and the UK scientists are studying it. He said there was "nothing to suggest" it made the disease more severe or that vaccines would no longer work, according to BBC. More information will be available about differences in symptoms or the duration or severity of disease after scientists collect additional data.
However, on December 2, tier 3 lockdown rules came into effect in the country after the national lockdown was lifted, as per the Guardian. Non-essential shops, gyms, hairdressers, and other personal care businesses have been allowed to open. Even places of worship are open, and weddings have been permitted with restrictions. But, hospitality venues are to remain closed, except for delivery and takeaway service. In tier 3, hotels and other accommodation providers are also to remain shut unless for specific work purposes where people cannot return home.
Hancock told Parliament members in the UK that there has been a sharp rise in coronavirus infections across London, Kent, parts of Essex and Hertfordshire during the first week of December.
"We've currently identified over 1,000 cases with this variant predominantly in the South of England although cases have been identified in nearly 60 different local authority areas. We do not know the extent to which this is because of the new variant but no matter its cause we have to take swift and decisive action which unfortunately is absolutely essential to control this deadly disease while the vaccine is rolled out," he said, as reported by BBC.
The vaccine started rolling out during the second week of December and it will be the largest such endeavor by the UK ever. However, difficulties have shown up early after general practitioners opted out of vaccinating people due to their existing heavy workloads.
"I’ve not spoken to a single doctor who doesn’t want to take part in the vaccine rollout; medical professionals are acutely aware of the importance of vaccinations. However, PCNs in some areas may simply be forced to opt out in order to keep normal patient services going, and keep their patients safe this winter," Dr. Julia Patterson, the lead for Everydoctor, a network of grassroots NHS medics, told the Telegraph.
This is clearly a potentially concerning development. Our CMO @DrGregorSmith has given me an initial briefing this afternoon and @scotgov will be monitoring closely. We will also consider whether any additional precautions are required meantime https://t.co/0PEkZvbanM— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) December 14, 2020
So, while implementing the vaccination schedule is under fire, there is a new strain that is spreading faster. However, it may not be a matter of worry because it is normal for viruses to mutate. Most mutations cause little or zero changes, while some help in stopping the virus, but it can also make transmission faster.
"We think there’s a mechanism for the virus to start escaping," Ravi Gupta, professor of clinical microbiology at the Cambridge Institute of Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Disease at the University of Cambridge told the Guardian. "We need to crack down on it. We don’t know what it’s going to do long term but we can’t take a chance on it. It’s unlikely it’ll make people sicker, but it could make it harder to control."
UK Health Minister Matt Hancock gives an update on COVID-19 to parliament https://t.co/mbuid8ilcc— Reuters (@Reuters) December 14, 2020
A new strain could be resistant to existing vaccines, which makes inoculation harder. So, research is being conducted to see if the new variant could cause problems. If the virus does become resistant to the vaccines then the jabs will have to be tweaked to make them effective again.