While the world has been waiting for the end of the pandemic, a new strain of COVID-19 appeared, potentially prolonging the struggle.
Rabat – The COVID-19 pandemic has cost the world an arm and a leg, and with a vaccine providing hope, a new strain of the virus emerged to dampen optimism, leading many to think that the pandemic will not end anytime soon.
Health experts have told the public that the new strain of the virus is not deadlier, but said that it is 70% more infectious and can thus rapidly spread among people.
Here is what you should know about the new strain of COVID-19.
On Saturday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that his country detected a new variant of COVID-19, which was also reported in Denmark and Australia.
The announcement came as a surprise in several countries, who decided to shut their borders to travelers coming from the UK.
Morocco was among the countries that suspended flights with the UK.
The new COVID-19 strain includes mutations that impact part of the virus, which are likely to be significant.
Laboratory experiments showed that the mutations could increase the ability of the virus to infect cells, BBC reported.
The new COVID-19 strain did not recently appear, but was actually detected a few months ago.
Health officials first reported the new variant in September.
London was among the first areas where the new COVID-19 strain spread, the British news outlet said. In November, it accounted for approximately 25% of the city’s COVID-19 infections.
“This reached nearly two-thirds of cases in mid-December.”
The new strain is highly prevalent in London, the South East, and eastern England.
The only part of the UK untouched by the mutated virus is Northern Ireland, according to the BBC.
According to the news outlet’s reporting, the new strain appeared in a patient with a “weakened immune system” who was not able to fight off the virus.
A weakened immune system can lead the body to become a breeding ground for the virus.
Health experts do not think the new strain of COVID-19 is any more deadly, but say it needs continuous monitoring.
Despite the fears and concerns, experts reassured the world that the vaccines against the virus are likely still effective for now.
Moroccan scientist Moncef Slaoui gave an interview to CNN on Sunday, refuting rumors that the vaccine is not effective against the new strain.
Slaoui, who leads the US’ Operation Warp Speed vaccine team, said the new strain of COVID-19 that appeared in the UK is “very unlikely” to escape vaccine immunity.
“Up to now, I do not think there has been a single variant [of the coronavirus] that would be resistant to the vaccine. We can’t exclude it, but it’s not there now, and this particular variant in the UK, I think, is very unlikely to have escaped the vaccine immunity,” Slaoui stressed.