The British government, haunted by a significant increase in daily COVID-19 cases, announced on Tuesday that “watch very closely“A new subvariant of the coronavirus that is spreading in the United Kingdom, although he admitted that he still does not know if it is more contagious.
The new mutation, named “AY4.2”, derives from the variant Deltahighly contagious, initially detected in India and sparked off cases in the UK in late spring.
”We are closely following this new form and we will not hesitate to take action if necessary“Said a Downing Street spokesman. However, he specified that “there is no reason to believe that it is spreading more easily” in the country.
Why Britain is going through a new Covid-19 outbreak
The appearance of this new subvariant of the virus occurs at a time when the country, one of the hardest hit in Europe with 138,000 deaths due to coronavirus, he faces a growing number of positive cases of the disease.
For two weeks, new daily infections have fluctuated between 35,000 and 45,000, with an incidence rate of 410 cases per 100,000 inhabitants until October 12, a number much higher than in the rest of Europe.
Some scientists attribute this health deterioration, which especially affects adolescents and young adults, to the low level of vaccination among minors, to the reduction of immunity in the elderly who were vaccinated many months ago and to the lifting in July in England of the most restrictions, such as the use of masks indoors.
How the new variant of the virus affects the UK
Francois Balloux, director of the Institute of Genetics at University College London, said that the new variant “it is not the cause from the recent increase in the number of cases in the UK ”.
The scientist, quoted by AFP, explained that, with its current low frequency, even “10% more transmissibility could only have caused a small number of additional cases.”
The appearance of AY4.2 “is not a situation comparable to the appearance of the Alpha and Delta strains, which were much more transmissible (50% or more) than any of the strains that were circulating at that time,” he specified.
However, experts cited by the Financial Times They said that this new subvariant could be responsible for almost 10% of covid cases in the country.
Its prevalence, they added, is increasing rapidly, but not as fast as the first Delta did after moving from India to this country earlier this year. This “new lineage of SARS-CoV-2” is “descendant” of the Delta variant (B.1.167.2) and “has two characteristic mutations” in protein S, “Y145H” and “A222V”, which could offer to the virus advantages to survive.
The new variant AY4.2 is almost non-existent outside the UK, apart from three cases detected in the United States and a few in Denmark, which have since almost disappeared.
His reaction to existing vaccines is now being investigated.
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