The new variant of the coronavirus is already outside the UK, warned British Transport Minister Grant Shapps.
“The reality is that [the new strain of SARS-CoV-2] may already be in other countries, we know that it is already in other countries, ” Shapps explained to the Sky News channel.
Meanwhile, virologist Christian Drosten , director of the Institute of Virology at the Berlin clinic Charité, does not exclude that the new variant of the coronavirus is already in Germany.
“It can be assumed that the mutated pathogen has already reached Germany,” Drosten told Deutschlandfunk broadcaster.
On December 19, the UK’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group confirmed that the new variant of the coronavirus detected in the country is spreading at a higher rate and that it requires the population to be even more careful.
“Initial analyzes suggest that this variant is growing faster than existing strains,” admitted British Health Minister Matt Hancock in the Westminster Parliament.
The new strain of coronavirus in the United Kingdom is “70% more transmissible” , according to Boris Johnson at a press conference. It is believed to be 50% more contagious than any previously detected strain. It causes the same symptoms as normal COVID-19 – such as a cough, fever and loss of taste and smell – but could cause a sharp increase in the number of cases, according to data from the National Health Service. At the same time, nothing suggests that it is more dangerous in terms of mortality or the number of hospitalizations.
“There is nothing to suggest at the present time that the variant of the virus is more likely to cause serious disease or is more damaging or invulnerable than the vaccines developed to date,” said the British Health Minister.
At the same time, the German virologist Christian Drosten pointed out that the data that the mutation is 70% more contagious is an estimate, since the information that is now available is very incomplete and scientifically unreliable.
“British scientists also made it clear that they needed at least half a week to make accurate statements,” the expert said. He added that currently the question that needs to be answered is whether the variant discovered is actually more contagious.
It is also necessary to clarify if the mutated virus had triggered a new wave in the south-east of the United Kingdom, or if this is due to the high rate of infection in this region during the pandemic, among other things because people did not adhere enough to restrictions, Drosten explained. He added that this assumption is supported by the fact that the mutation was discovered in the UK in September and was also detected in Australia, the Netherlands, Denmark or Belgium, but did not cause an epidemic situation as severe as in the UK there. .
On December 14, the Government of Boris Johnson increased restrictions in several regions of the southeast of England after detecting the new strain of SARS-CoV-2. Thousands of Britons rushed to leave the UK capital to escape the new measures announced by the prime minister.
Previously, several countries, such as Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and France, announced that they were closing their borders to British travelers due to the spread of the strain.