Just as the world was dealing with the threat of an unprecedented global pandemic in the form of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the United Kingdom (UK) said last week that there was a new strain of the virus, more contagious that the other ones.
In the UK itself, the highest, fourth level of alert was introduced in some areas, and Christmas relaxations of COVID measures were reduced or recalled. India and several other countries — including France, Switzerland, Turkey, Estonia, Belgium, and the Netherlands — have already suspended air travel with the UK or are considering it.
Not unexpectedly, all of these meteoric developments proved more than enough for Twitter to deal with at the moment, as netizens took to social media to express concern over what they referred to as '#COVID20' — a play on the year 2020 and the moniker 'COVID 2.0' — to signify the new threat which has come up in the form of the novel coronavirus strain.
Twitterati also expressed concern over UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's upcoming India visit on Republic Day as the chief guest of the parade, drawing a parallel with the 'Namaste Trump' event earlier in January, when US President Donald Trump had arrived in India for a high-profile public tour amid the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.
"Namaste trump = spread of coronavirus in india
Boris johnson = mutant coronavirus to spread in india
Stop boris johnson to come on republic day because he will not come alone he will bring staff of 200 to 100 people it will lead to spread of covid 2.0," posted an user in a somewhat bizarre but alarmed tweet on the matter.
Journalists on Twitter also rang the alarm bell, sardonically referring to the UK PM's visit as 'Namaste Boris', and hoping that the Indian government does not "repeat it's [sic.] mistakes" as it did ahead of the 'Namaste Trump', reportedly not suspending flights until it was too late to effectively cut the spread of the virus.
In Britain, Boris Johnson has announced stricter restrictions ahead of Christmas to cut the spread of the virus, while UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News on Saturday that the new strain of coronavirus currently circulating in parts of England is already "out of control".
Johnson, for his part, will be travelling to India in January next year as the chief guest of the Republic Day parade here. However, with the alarming development over the new virus strain in the UK, the leader's visit could be a cause of concern for New Delhi.
However, as of now, there has been no official confirmation as to whether there will be any sort of restrictions — as far as UK PM Boris Johnson's India visit in January is concerned.
Currently, scientists and researchers are trying to understand the exact nature of this new strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which caused COVID-19. It is presently believed that the new strain is 70% more infectious than the other earlier variants, and that almost 60% of the new COVID-19 cases in London have been caused by it.
However, in Boris Johnson's own words, "it is still too early to tell". There is no evidence currently in place to suggest that the new variant is more deadly, although the aforementioned fact is currently being monitored by experts.
The UK PM is also scheduled to chair an emergency meeting to review the situation after several countries across the world have either suspended or temporarily halted flights to and fro from Britain following the discovery of the highly infectious new mutant COVID-19 strain. The Union Health Ministry in Inda has also called for a high-level meeting on Monday to discuss the new coronavirus strain found in the United Kingdom.
Any potential notification regarding Boris Johnson's India visit will have to await official confirmation for now.