Updated: December 24, 2020 8:54:46 am
The move to temporarily suspend passenger flight links with the United Kingdom is, as the Union Health Secretary said, in the direction of “enhanced epidemiological surveillance and containment”.
The latest threat assessment brief from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control underlines that “viruses constantly change through mutation and the emergence of a new variant is an expected occurrence, and not in itself a cause for concern”.
Information on the severity of the new variant is as yet very limited, and no conclusion has been reached on the reasons behind the increased transmissibility.
As such, the restrictions put on non-essential travel to and from the affected country is out of an abundance of caution at an early stage.
Releasing information on the new variant of SARS-CoV-2 on Sunday, Public Health England (PHE) said that while the new strain transmits more easily than the previous variant, “there is no evidence that it is more likely to cause severe disease or mortality”.
Nothing, therefore, changes on measures that are required to be taken to control the spread of the virus. “The way to control this virus is the same, whatever the variant. It will not spread if we avoid close contact with others. Wash your hands, wear a mask, keep your distance from others, and reduce your social contacts,” PHE said.
Only a detailed scientific analysis will reveal the extent of the problem – which could take a few weeks to generate results. COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK), the consortium that flagged the emergence of the new variant to the UK health authorities, said: “It is difficult to predict whether any given mutation is important when it first emerges, against a backdrop of the continuous emergence of new mutations. It would take considerable time and effort to test the effect of many thousands of combinations of mutations.”
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