The World Health Organization has come forward to calm things down amid the anxiety over a new potentially ‘highly infectious’ Covid-19 strain found in the UK, saying it is not that different from other coronavirus strains.
“There is zero evidence that the new coronavirus variant increases severity of the disease,” the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program Chief Mike Ryan told at a press conference on Monday, citing data received from British scientists.
The risks faced by the people that catch this particular strain of the virus are pretty much the same as odds faced by other people suffering from Covid-19. According to the WHO, it is neither more aggressive, nor any deadlier than the other strains.
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It does seem to be spreading somewhat easier, the health watchdog admitted. Still, its contagiousness appears to be nothing out of the ordinary and it is still much less infectious than diseases such as mumps.
The new strain would also hardly affect the efficacy of drugs and vaccines developed against Covid-19, the WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan said.
“So far, even though we have seen a number of changes, a number of mutations, none has made a significant impact on … the susceptibility of the virus to any of the currently used therapeutics, drugs or the vaccines under development,” she said.
WHO officials also described a flurry of travel bans to and from the UK imposed by some two dozen of nations across the world as a move taken out of abundance of caution.
“We have to find a balance. It’s very important to have transparency, it’s very important to tell the public the way it is, but it’s also important to get across that this is a normal part of virus evolution,” Ryan said, while still calling this decision “prudent.”
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The WHO expects to receive some more data on the new Covid-19 strain in the coming days, including on the immune response the human organism provides to the new virus.
Statements from the WHO come after the discovery of a new Covid-19 strain provoked some sort of a panic in Europe and beyond. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the new mutation is allegedly 70 percent more contagious, as he announced strict ‘Tier 4’ lockdown for the areas that saw a sharp rise in new infections.
Following the announcement, many nations, including the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, France, Germany, Poland and Russia suspended all travel to and from the UK. Other countries like Argentina and Chile soon followed suit, while Turkey and Saudi Arabia went further and cut all foreign travel at all.
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Meanwhile, top German virologist Christian Drosten said that the panic over the new strain was apparently premature, since there was no hard evidence suggesting it was indeed that highly contagious or that it was responsible for the UK’s sharp rise in new cases.
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