Coronavirus: UK cases surpass ten million during pandemic

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From midday today, travellers arriving in England from several southern African countries will have to quarantine amid warnings over a new coronavirus variant. South Africa’s foreign ministry Naledi Pandor said the decision “seems to have been rushed,” but now evidence shows it may be the right choice. Dr Eric Feigl-Ding, a Senior Fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, detailed on his Twitter how a traveller “from South Africa flew to Hong Kong with a new variant — but wasn’t discovered until 4th day of quarantine on 2nd PCR”.

He added that “another guest across hallway cross-infected—only positive on 8th day on 4th PCR”.

Dr Feigl-Ding has raised the alarm over the concerning “cross-transmission” of the variant, known as B.1.1.529.

He added: “The viral load of these two with B.1.1.529 in Hong Kong hotels were very high.

“PCR Ct values of 18 and 19! That’s insanely high considering they were negative on recent PCR tests.

“Looks like vaccine evasion could be real with this variant.”

Dr Feigl-Ding stated that “border and travel restrictions make sense,” adding that the cases were only recorded “because of a mandatory hotel quarantine”.

It comes after one expert described the variant as “the worst one we’ve seen so far”, and there is concern it has the potential to evade immunity.

It’s important to point out that no cases have been confirmed in the UK.

Only 77 confirmed cases have been identified in South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana so far.

But its catalogue of 32 mutations have made the virus “dramatically different” to anything seen before, according to experts.

The mutations occur throughout the virus, including on the spike protein which allows the coronavirus to enter human cells, leaving leading molecular biologists and virologists in the UK concerned.

Experts fear the variant has the potential to be more infectious than Delta.

It may also be better at dodging antibodies than the Beta variant.

Beta first emerged in late 2020 in South Africa and is the strain most capable of evading the vaccine.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is meeting with South African officials on Friday to discuss the rapidly evolving situation in the country.

Health officials will decide whether to declare the new strain a “variant under investigation” or a “variant of concern”.

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