Mutated version of Covid-19 identified in the UK, what is it and what are the consequences for The Netherlands?
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a new lockdown for London and the south-east and east of England due to a coronavirus variant in the United Kingdom. The mutated version, which appears to spread more easily, has caused great uncertainty in England right before Christmas. How the new strain will affect people in the Netherlands is still unclear.
A case sampling conducted in the Netherlands at the beginning of December found the same mutation like the one identified in the UK. The sample is under further investigation. The Dutch national public health institute (GGD) is looking at who got infected and how the transmission happened.
Currently, there is no information on whether more related cases have been found in the Netherlands. The mutation emerged from a sample of the public health agency RIVM, which examines the entire composition of the viruses discovered every week.
Apart from the flight ban that was introduced on Sunday, it is currently unclear whether the new variant will have further consequences for the current coronavirus measure in the Netherlands.
The WHO tweeted that it was in contact with UK officials over the new variant. It said the UK was sharing information from ongoing studies into the mutation and that the WHO would update member states and the public “as we learn more about the characteristics of this virus variant [and] any implications.”
The mutation was first detected on December 14 in south-east England and has since been named VUI-202012/01 (the first “Variant Under Investigation” in December 2020). Such mutations are by no means rare. In fact, this variant is one among tens of thousands.
The coronavirus is continuously mutating, and by July 2020, there were already over 12,000 different strains. What makes this particular variant significant is the rate at which it appears to be spreading. “It’s the growth rate we are worrying about,” says Nick Loman, professor of microbial genomics and bioinformatics at the University of Birmingham.
The new strain creates “considerable uncertainty,” said UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as the new variant may be up to 70% more transmissible than the old one. However, officials say there is no current evidence to suggest the new variant causes a higher mortality rate or that it is affected any differently by vaccines and treatments.
“I think this is a situation which is going to make things a lot worse, but there are some really optimistic things if you look once we get the vaccine out, assuming the vaccine works against this, which at the moment is the working assumption,” said England’s chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty.
The United Kingdom started its vaccination process on December 8. Health minister Hancock announced that by December 21, half a million Brits would be inoculated against the virus.