Coronaviruses are a family of viruses which in humans may cause respiratory disease. From the many crown-like spikes on the surface of the virus, they get their name, "corona." Examples of coronaviruses which cause illness in humans are common cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). In December 2019, the latest coronavirus strain, COVID-19, was first identified in Wuhan, China. Ever since, the virus has travelled to all continents (except Antarctica).COVID-19, through your mouth, nose or eyes, reaches your body (directly from the airborne droplets or from transfer of the virus from your hands to your face). In the back of the mouth, the infection spreads to the back of the nasal passages and mucous membrane. There, it binds to cells, starts multiplying and passes into lung tissue. The virus will spread from there to other tissues of the body. Governments, health departments, scientists and healthcare professionals all work together to establish strategies and protocols to reduce the spread of this virus both internationally and from person to person.
COVID NEW STRAIN :
It has 23 mutations in its genetic code including 7 in the spike protein, which is what the viruses uses to enter into human cells. Mutations are a natural part of virus evolution, and most have no impact, but occasionally a mutation gives a virus an advantage. Many mutations were seen in Coronavirus early in the pandemic, but the new UK strain features an unusual number of mutations. The functional effect of which are currently unknown. Scientists are still investigating about how dangerous the new strain is. The UK says there is no evidence yet that this virus causes severe disease. But it could be 40-70% more infectious. In the UK, the mutant variant seems to be dominating existing strains. By 9 December, the new strain was behind 62% of confirmed COVID-19 cases in London.
WHAT DOES THE VARIANT LOOK LIKE?
In genomic surveillance, the variant was identified by COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK), a consortium that studies UK data on genome sequencing. COG-UK is the biggest contributor to GISAID, the national Covid-19 site.The variant is the result of multiple mutations in the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus spike protein, as well as mutations in other RNA virus genomic regions. Preliminary research indicates that it is more transmissible than versions that have been circulating before. In a region of the spike protein that binds to a main protein in the human cell, the ACE2 receptor, COG-UK named one of these mutations as "N501Y." This was a sign that, potentially, the changes could lead to the virus becoming more contagious. The consortium said, "Efforts are under way to confirm whether or not any of these mutations contribute to increased transmission."
HOW SOON WILL I DEVELOP ANY SYMPTOMS AFTER BEING INFECTED WITH COVID-19?
The time between being infected and displaying symptoms, this so-called "incubation period," can stretch from two to 14 days. The average time before signs are encountered is five days. Symptoms can vary from very mild to extreme in severity. COVID-19 induces only moderate symptoms in about 80 percent of patients.
WILL I BE CONTAMINATED AGAIN IF I RECOVER FROM A CASE OF COVID-19?
The U.S. Centres for Disease Control says "the immune response to COVID-19 is not yet understood." Scientists are still gathering knowledge and testing on the virus because this is a new type of coronavirus, so it's still too early to tell whether you can catch it a second time if you've had it already. Scientists are seeing a subset of patients that have COVID-19 in a related subject and have symptoms that persist for weeks and even months. These patients are called long haulers of the coronavirus. These patients continue to be followed by researchers.
FACTORS THAT COULD MAKE COVID-19 SUPER SPREADER :
One person can infect dozens of others at one, while some don’t seem to pass on the virus at all. Scientists say that if a person has a blocked nose and a full set of teeth, Sneeze travel up to 60% further, with 4 times as many droplets. Teeth create a narrowing effect, focusing the strength of the sneeze, making droplets spray further. While some people are thought to carry a higher viral load and shed more viral droplets. Also studies have shown that louder speakers may be more of a transmission risk. The World Health Organization (WHO) advises sneezing into your elbow or a tissue, keeping rooms well ventilated and wearing a mask.
NEW COVID-19 STRAIN FOUND IN UK - STRICT LOCKDOWN IMPOSED :
The UK Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has warned that the UK has been hit with a new strain of the novel Coronavirus that is known to spread at a more rapid than the conventional kind. This had led severe restrictions for people in certain parts of the nation. The authorities have asked over 16 Million Britons living in London and Southeast England to stay locked in their homes while also scrapping all plans to relax during Christmas to prevent spreading of the novel Coronavirus.
Hancock also revealed that as 350,000 people had been vaccinated on 19 December and planned to cross 500,000 over the weekend. According to Hancock, this strain was also spotted in the Netherlands, Denmark, Australia and South Africa. Even though they know this strain spreads rapidly, it is still unknown if it’s more dangerous and vaccines that are currently out are effective against this new variant of SARS CoV-2.
Netherlands has already suspended flights from Britain till January 1. Germany and France also announced a complete transport ban. Belgium has issued a flight ban for 24 hours, also halted trains that links to Britain, including Eurostar. Australia and Italy too have announced halting of flights. The World Health Organization on 19 December Saturday announced that it is in close contact with UK officials on the new COVID-19 mutations and promised to update the government and public as they derive more information on it.
Saudi Arabia had also halted international flights and suspended entry for a week. Neighbouring Kuwait also announced a ban on passenger flights from Britain due to the new strain of the virus.
NEW COVID STRAIN IS NOT YET FOUND IN INDIA :
Five people have tested positive for Coronavirus who arrived India from Britain, but it was not clear either they had a highly infectious new strain of the virus or not. 250 passengers who have arrived in Delhi on 21 December have undergone the mandatory RT-PCR test at the airport. The passengers had been sent to Sardar Patel Covid Centre of Chattarpur.
The suspension of flights from and to UK came into effect from 22 December to 31 December. As a measure of abundant precaution, passengers arriving from UK before 22 December should mandatorily go for RT-PCR test on arrival at the airport. Seven day isolation is also advised to passengers coming from the UK.
“We have tested samples collected from the various parts of the country and haven’t seen the mutant strain found in the UK. We shouldn’t think that this will definitely come to India. ” Dr Panda said.
TAMIL NADU BANS NEW YEAR CELEBRATIONS, RAJASTHAN IMPOSES RESTRICTIONS DUE TO COVID PANDEMIC :
The Tamil Nadu government had also put ban on celebrating New Year on beaches, hotels, clubs and resorts on December 31 and January 1, 2021 as part of efforts to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. According to an official statement, the public will not be allowed to enter beaches, resorts, and similar places on New Year’s Evening and the following day. This order was passed to minimise the spread of pandemic by restraining gathering of people in large numbers.
Rajasthan imposes restrictions; The Rajasthan Government has decided to impose Diwali like restrictions on the New Year’s Evening. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot appealed people to celebrate New Year at home and avoid bursting firecrackers or gathering outside.
MAHARASHTRA ANNOUNCED NEW COVID RULES :
Maharashtra Government declared a night curfew from 11PM to 6 AM to avoid Gatherings on Christmas and New Year in municipal corporation areas from December 22 to January 5 as a precautionary step over a new Coronavirus variant spreading in Britain. It has also been decided to make quarantine for 14 days also got compulsory for those who are coming from European and West Asian countries. The decisions were taken by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
Thackeray instructed municipal commissioners to arrange for hotels and separate hospitals to quarantine passengers and separate hospitals for passengers coming from European countries and showing symptoms of the new coronavirus variant arriving at international airports in their respective jurisdiction.
ADVICE FOR THE PUBLIC BY WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (WHO) :
· Maintain at least a 1-metre distance between yourself and others to reduce your risk of infection.
· Make wearing a mask a normal part of being around other people.
· Avoid the 3Cs: spaces that are closed, crowded or involve close contact.
· Avoid crowded or indoor settings.
· Don’t forget the basics of good hygiene.
Looking to the data above it is crystal clear that the new variant of corona virus is considered to be transmitted at more speed than the original virus, which is not appreciable and pandemic situation can get worse if precautions are not followed seriously.
However it is just considered to be more "infectious" but there are no transparent reports in view of this new variant mutant. Scientists have said that there have been instances before in past in which viruses have mutated to strains that may have been fast in transmission but have resulted in easy or milder disease. They have also suggested that they will have to wait, look and observe the patients outcomes in according to be more accurate towards the measures that should be taken against this new strain.
However this is a wake-up call for our globe and the people in the world who was thinking that the pandemic is over and now its time to be more serious in safety and precautionary terms.
Author - Kiran Israni
2nd Year Student of BACL, Nagpur
Content Writer at Legaleagle Law Forum