New rapid spreading Covid-19 mutation present in Wales
A new coronavirus variant which is spreading rapidly in the South East of England has also been identified in Wales.
More than 1000 cases have been found so far in England with 10 identified in Wales.
Yesterday UK health secretary Matt Hancock said “that because of the testing and surveillance systems that we built, we’ve also identified a new variant of this virus which may be associated with the faster spread in some areas.”
“We deal with this variant just like we do with all the others and this underlines how important it is for us to be vigilant.” Mr Hancock added.
Efforts are under way to confirm whether or not any of these mutations are contributing to increased transmission.
According to the Covid-19 Genomics UK Consortium (COG_UK) who work with the four UK Public Health Agencies, “there is currently no evidence that this variant (or any other studied to date) has any impact on disease severity.
COG UK also says there’s no evidence that the variant “will render vaccines less effective, although both questions require further studies performed at pace.”
“We will provide further updates as our investigations proceed.”
The Welsh Government said: “In relation to this particular mutation, we have identified 10 confirmed cases and 5 probable cases through sequencing that took place during November – further sequencing is underway and we expect to identify further cases.”
“Public Health Wales is actively looking for this variant and will be tracking any other Welsh cases as they emerge.”
COG-UK said: “Mutations arise naturally in the SARS-CoV-2 genome as the virus replicates and circulates in the human population.”
“As a result of this on-going process, many thousands of mutations have already arisen in the SARS-CoV-2 genome since the virus emerged in 2019. As mutations continue to arise, novel combinations are increasingly observed.”
“The vast majority of the mutations observed in SARS-CoV-2 have no apparent effect on the virus and only a very small minority are likely to be important and change the virus in any appreciable way (for example, a change in the ability to infect people; cause disease of different severity; or become insensitive to the effect of the human immune response including the response generated by a vaccine).”
Brendan Wren, Professor of Microbial Pathogenesis at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said:
“The emergence of new genetic variants is a natural process that viruses undergo during protracted epidemics. Invariably the mutations responsible for the new genetic variants are neutral and have little effect on the transmission and virulence of the virus.
“It is impressive that this new variant has been picked up so quickly by the COG-UK genomics teams and this should allow us to monitor and study in detail this emergent variant to ascertain if it could potentially be more problematic.”
There cannot be any complacency as to the need for global action.
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