Scientists in the UK are investigating the impact of the new mutant variant of coronavirus, named VUI-202012/01, on children and whether the faster transmission in parts of England is in the younger segment of the population. Earlier strains of coronavirus found it harder to infect children than adults, with one explanation being that children have fewer of the doorways called the ACE2 receptor the virus uses to enter a human body's cells. The mutations to the virus appeared to be making it easier to breach those doorways, explained an expert.
TO BE FOUND EVERYWHERE: From initial reports of the new variant being more confined to London and southern parts of England, the government's Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, has now confirmed that it is to be found "everywhere". This would mean that a more nationwide stay-at-home lockdown in the UK might be on its way to add to the millions already under the Tier 4 level of the most stringent curbs. Aditi Khanna/London (PTI)
WORK ON IT?
German pharmaceutical company BioNTech is confident that its coronavirus vaccine works against the new UK variant, but further studies are needed to be completely sure, its chief executive said on Tuesday. The proteins on the UK variant are 99% the same as on the prevailing strains, and therefore BioNTech has "scientific confidence" that its vaccine will be effective. "But we will know it only if the experiment is done and we will need about two weeks from now to get the data," he said. "The likelihood that our vaccine works ... is relatively high." Frank Jordans/Berlin (AP)
SITUATION IS NOT
‘OUT OF CONTROL’
Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO's Health Emergencies Program, said that even with the latest UK variant, "there's zero evidence at this point that there's any increase in severity associated with this disease". The UK authorities reported to the WHO that the new variant is associated with an increase in R0, which is the number of people that one infected individual transmits the virus to. But Ryan said, "even if the virus has become a little bit more efficient in spreading, it can be stopped." "This situation is not in that sense out of control, but it cannot be left to its own devices." (IANS/London)