With the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) finally under control in Delhi after the surge in cases in November, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal urged the central government to ban flights from the United Kingdom where a new, infectious strain of the virus has been detected.
“New mutation of corona virus has emerged in UK, which is a super-spreader. I urge central govt to ban all flights from UK immediately,” tweeted Kejriwal.
The new strain of the virus—which accounts for one-third of the current cases in London—is believed to be 70% more infectious that the other strains in circulation. The United Kingdom announced a surprise lockdown in London and other parts of the country amid the surge in cases due to the new strain of the virus.
The new strain of the virus was first detected in September and has been shown to increase the spread of the disease in labs. So far, there is no evidence to suggest that it leads to more deaths.
“The government is alert, there is no need to panic,” said union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan. The union health ministry has called an urgent meeting of the joint monitoring group on Monday to discuss the particular strain.
The new strain has a mutation in a very important part of the virus—the receptor binding domain on the spike protein. This is the part of the virus that first comes in contact with human cells and helps the virus enter the body.
The strain is also being monitored closely by scientists as the vaccines that have been approved or are under development target the spike protein of the virus. However, experts believe that the vaccines will be effective against the virus for now.
“If we let it add more mutations, then you start worrying. This virus is potentially on a pathway for vaccine escape, it has taken the first couple of steps towards that,” Prof Ravi Gupta from the University of Cambridge told BBC.