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COVID-20: New virus strain hits hard as world nations ban flights to UK

Mon 21 Dec 2020    
| 2 min read

In yet another sobering hurdle for Great Britain — thought to finally be on the cusp of recovery from their leaden pandemic blues — a new strain of the coronavirus has cropped across the nation, thought to be more infectious than the original.

Since the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine was green-lit for the ‘world’s first’ roll out on U.K. soil last month, the country’s biggest mass inoculation campaign has steadily seen seniors and frontline workers line up for the jab. Allergic hits to the vaccine were also logged in the following weeks, with the NHS issuing warnings to citizens with a ‘reaction history’ to refrain from the shot.

The new strain, not yet detected in the U.S., is drawing alarm just as vaccines are being rolled out around the world. Moderna this week became the second FDA approved vaccine to ship out across the States following Pfizer. President-elect Joe Biden is set to be vaccinated Monday.

The best news here might be that vaccine-makers tend to take such mutations into account. Seasonal influenza vaccines, for example, include a variety of viral strains already circulating and allow for some that could develop later.

Vivek Murthy, Biden’s nominee for surgeon general, on Sunday urged Americans not to let concerns over the new strain shake their faith in vaccination.

“There’s no reason to believe that the vaccines that have been developed will not be effective against this virus as well,” Murthy said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Yet concerns are on the rise as the fatigued U.K. healthcare system registers yet another offense to its fledging efforts to curb the spread. British Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned the infection was “out of control” in Southern England. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who described the new strain as 70% more transmissible than the original, ordered tighter restrictions and dropped a much-anticipated relaxation of rules that had been set to kick in across much of England ahead of the holidays.

More than 16 million people are now ordered to stay at home in London and southeast England, and socialising elsewhere in the country is now restricted to Christmas Day only.

The World Health Organisation said the new strain was identified in southeastern England as early as September. WHO said the mutation has been detected as far away as Australia.

Public health officials around the globe are wary and governments are taking no chances. Over 40 countries have now placed blocks on travel to-and-from the U.K., axing highly-anticipated expectations for Christmas getaways in the nation.

In Europe, several countries like Italy, Germany, Austria, Romania, Switzerland, Ireland and the Netherlands have banned flights. Belgium has halted both flights and train links, the lifeblood of European travel.

In other parts of the world, Russia, India, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Turkey have also banned travel to the U.K.

France has issued a temporary 48 hour block, while other countries like Greece have spiked travel hurdles — anyone arriving from Britain must self isolate for a week, regardless of their COVID-19 results.

The European leaders are set to gather in Brussels Monday to address ways to tackle the new variant before it strengthens its hold.

[Sourced from Agencies]