What does the new COVID-19 Variant represent?

The year 2020 will be remembered for quite a while due to the hardships it has caused to several individuals on both personal and professional levels. As the tide seems to be turning, as COVID-19 vaccines are now being made available to the public, we have recently been hit by news that a new COVID-19 variant has been identified.

During the month of November, there was a significant increase in COVID-19 cases across London and southeast England. This surge in cases has been attributed to a new variant of the COVID-19 disease. The characteristics of this new variant are currently being investigated as awareness heightens and several countries have restricted travel to and from the United Kingdom.

Initial research points to the theory that this COVID-19 variant is more transmissible, hence increasing fears over other uncontrollable outbreaks. Whilst this variant may pose new challenges, it is a common phenomenon that viruses change through mutation and such variants are expected as time progresses. Some variants emerge and can disappear, whilst others can rapidly infect people. So far, a number of variants of the COVID-19 disease have been documented during the course of this pandemic.

According to recent reports, six out of every ten cases in London are being brought about by this new variant. Studies also show that this new variant spreads more easily from one individual to another. With that said, no research shows that this variant can cause a more severe disease. These are still early stages and more studies on the new variant are needed to understand its nature and potential impacts, hence why this is being studied by public health officials.

These latest developments pose a new question, as to whether this new COVID-19 variant affects the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. At this moment in time, there is no evidence which suggests this and many health professionals believe that the new variant will not jeopardise the effectiveness of the vaccines being developed.

With the development of such a global pandemic, it is very difficult to contain such a variant within one country or region. As we speak, apart from the UK, the new strain has been identified in Italy, France and India. Samples of those infected in Malta are also being studied to determine if the new variant is present. Conclusions from this initial research point out that the new variant has not been identified in Malta.

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