Fears of a new strain of COVID-19 are abundant. The strain that originated in the UK has led to countries across the globe preventing all flights from the UK — effectively placing the nation in isolation. However, a flight to India that arrived Monday night held a number of individuals from the UK testing positive.
As reported by Health Issues India, the news of a new strain of the disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) – or, simply, coronavirus – in the UK has prompted multiple countries in Europe and elsewhere to prohibit flights to or from the nation. India has joined those countries now, with the suspension coming amidst pleas from officials such as Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. The Chief Minister described the variant as a “super-spreader.”
The inbound flight is one of the last from the UK to arrive before the travel ban came into effect. Five people out of 266 passengers and crew members of the flight have tested positive, though no information is yet available as to whether these positive cases are of the mutant strain.
The spread of COVID-19 via the flight will likely add fuel to the fire and encourage other countries to crack down on travel from the UK, as fears of a more virulent strain are abundant. According to reports, the new variant of COVID-19 could be up to seventy percent more transmissible than the old variant. No cases of the new strain have been reported in India as of yet, top government officials said on Monday.
Indian officials have attempted to alleviate fears of the potential of a more transmissible strain. Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan has urged the citizenry not to panic. “The government is alert,” he said during a press conference. “There is no need to panic. Do not get yourself tangled in…[an] imaginary situation, talks and panic.”
As explained by The British Medical Journal, the mutant COVID-19 strain “is defined by a set of seventeen changes or mutations. One of the most significant is an N501Y mutation in the spike protein that the virus uses to bind to the human ACE2 receptor. Changes in this part of spike protein may, in theory, result in the virus becoming more infectious and spreading more easily between people.” The more transmissible strain threatens to hamper efforts to curb cases until the vaccinations have been widely rolled out.