Posted: 27 Nov 2021 17:18 GMT
The United Kingdom has so far detected two cases of the new variant of the coronavirus in the national territory.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson acknowledged this Saturday at a press conference that the new strain of the Omicron coronavirus is capable of “spreading between people who have received two doses of the vaccine” and is transmitted among the population “very quickly.”
The fact that the new variant, characterized by a high number of mutations, also infects those vaccinated has already been observed in South Africa, where currently three vaccines are administered, those from Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.
South Africa was the first country to notify the World Health Organization of the emergence of the B.1.1.529 strain. in early November, and scientists fear that its numerous mutations appear to contribute to further evasion of the immune response, allowing the virus to bypass the protection of not only antibodies, but also T cells, although these assumptions have yet to be confirmed. .
In the UK at the moment they have registered two cases contagion with Ómicron: one in Brentwood (Essex) and another in Nottingham. Both cases are believed to be linked to a trip to southern Africa.
In Johnson’s view, the key response to the emergence of the new variant of the coronavirus should be increased restrictions at the border to buy time, although this time the UK is “in a much, much stronger position” due to to the availability of vaccines. “I am absolutely sure that this Christmas is going to be considerably better than the last,” he said.
Measures taken by the British Government include: mandatory PCR tests for all travelers entering the country, which must be done by the second day after arrival, as well as the self-isolation for ten days in the case of close contact with someone who tested positive for Omicron. In addition, the use of masks will be mandatory in public transport and in stores.
The UK has already banned flights from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini (Swaziland), Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe despite WHO recommendations not to discriminate against nations that chose to share data openly and not to implement additional measures against travelers from those countries. “Early indications suggest that it may be more transmissible and vaccines may be less effective,” said British Health Secretary Sajid Javid, referring to the new strain.
What is known about Omicron?
What is known at the moment about the new variant is the following:
the presence of a large number of mutations, more than 30 only in the area that encodes the spike protein (S); some of the mutations detected are also present in the already known variants, such as Delta and Alpha, and are associated with greater transmissibility and evasion of the system’s defenses immune, such as antibodies.
The main unknowns
The questions that for now remain unanswered and pose uncertainty in the scientific community are many more:
Is it transmitted more easily and quickly than the already known variants? Does it evade the protection of vaccines and the immune system, and to what extent? Does it aggravate the course of COVID-19 in those infected or does it pass more mildly? will be responsible for new waves of covid-19 and may become the dominant variant in the world or exacerbate the already existing situation, worsened by Delta? What does its appearance mean in the fight against the pandemic?