Since its initial detection in the United Kingdom last month, a mutant coronavirus named B.1.1.7 has spread to as many as 30 nations. Experts have warned that the SARS-CoV-2 variant is highly transmissible raising fears that its global spread is inevitable. It has spread as far as the US in the west to Vietnam in the east, which reported an infected case on January 2.
According to the health authorities in Vietnam, which became the latest addition to the list, the infection was reported in a woman who had returned from Britain. In the aftermath, the country has banned nearly all international air travel but is providing repatriation flights for citizens stranded in the UK. In the Middle East, Turkey, on January 1, reported 15 cases of the COVID-19 variant despite banning flight from the UK in December.
Earlier, Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said that new variant identified in the UK was found in two cases in the Amsterdam area. Apart from the Netherlands, the UK variant of the virus has been detected in other nations including France and Italy. Australia and China have also reported cases.
Britain’s mutant virus has also been detected across the Atlantic. Canada, on December 26, has reported two cases in Ontario with Health Canada warning of rapid spread across the nation. Meanwhile, one person in the American state of Colorado and another in Florida were also found to be infected by the mutant strain.
Meanwhile, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on January 2, announced that its Pune-based lab - National Institute of virology (NIV) has successfully isolated and cultured the UK strain of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) from the UK arrivals. Stating that India was the first to isolate the strain of UK variant of COVID-19, ICMR said that vero cell lines were used by the ICMR scientists to culture the UK-variant of the virus. As of date, 29 people have tested positive for the new COVID-19 UK strain.
The new variant of the novel coronavirus has been flagged for spreading rapidly across the UK. Even though it is a well-known fact that viruses mutate all the time and some of them even die out, it is a very rare occasion when the new strains trigger dramatic changes. However, with over 1,000 cases of the variant discovered in the UK, scientists are puzzled to determine if the variant, reportedly named as VUI-202012/01 falls into which category or if it represents an increased health risk especially when some nations began administering the COVID-19 vaccines among people.