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THE UK has been branded a “disaster” as a mutant strain of the coronavirus causes chaos and 40 countries place bans on British flights.
The new strain, thought to be up to 70 per cent more infectious than the original, was first detected in London earlier this month and has now been identified in at least six other territories around the world.
The strain’s alarming spread prompted Prime Minister Boris Johnson over the weekend to scale back the relaxation of lockdown measures over Christmas for millions across the UK.
Speaking from Downing Street, he said scientists are “learning more about this variant” as they go, but that it was “now spreading very fast”.
Tier four restrictions have now been imposed across the southeast, south, and east of England, with a travel ban enforced and residents told not to leave their homes unless absolutely necessary.
The news prompted alarm around the world, with dozens of countries imposing a ban on flights from the UK.
France’s Le Monde newspaper said the strain “concludes a disaster year for the United Kingdom”, while Belgium’s HLN paper said that “chaos looms” for the country.
At least 17 countries across Europe – including France, Germany, and Ireland – have imposed bans, as have Canada, India, Russia, Israel, and numerous other countries globally.
The US is yet to follow suit, but speaking today Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir said that “everything [is] on the table”.
The ban in Germany left more than 60 Brits stranded and sleeping on camp beds at an airport in Hanover while screening was carried out.
France has also closed its borders to freight lorries from the UK for 48 hours, a move that it is feared could have a “devastating” effect on the supply of food and other goods in Britain.
The new strain is confirmed to have spread to at least five other places – Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Gibraltar, and Australia – but officials have said it is likely to already be circulating in elsewhere.
The news of the mutant strain of coronavirus spreading in the UK prompted countries around the world to introduce bans on travellers from Britain.
Scientists have said that the new mutation – dubbed N510Y – was first identified in Brazil more than eight months ago, but is now spreading faster as part of a “constellation of multiple mutations”.
Speaking to the Telegraph, Professor Peter Horby, chairman of the government’s Nervtag advisory committee, said: “When you put virus mutations together, the combination can have a different effect.”
It has also been said that the new strain has only been identified because of the work being done in the UK to trek variations of the virus as it moves through the population.
“Very likely that what we are seeing in Britain is just the tip of the iceberg.”
Speaking to the Jerusalem Post, Prof. Jacob Moran-Gilad a microbiologist at Ben-Gurion University’s School of Public Health, said: “The British are currently the world leaders in their rate of genetic sequencing for COVID-19 patient samples.
He added that it’s “very likely that what we are seeing in Britain is just the tip of the iceberg”.
“There are most likely a lot of mutations we don’t yet know about because most of the world doesn’t consistently survey and track the mutation,” he said.
But scientists have also said there is no reason to think the new strain won’t respond to the vaccines now being rolled out, nor necessarily any cause for concern until more is known.
Speaking to the Guardian, Christian Drosten said: “The question is: is this virus being boosted by a coming new wave in the region concerned [south-east England], or is this virus responsible for creating this wave in the first place? That’s an important difference.
“I am open to new scientific insights, and in science there are always surprises, but I am everything but worried in this respect.”
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News – Britain branded ‘disaster’ as mutant Covid spreads and 40 nations ban UK flights