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B16172 SARS-CoV-2 Variant | UPSC
B16172 Q&A: all you need to know about this SARS-CoV-2 variant
WHY IN NEWS:
Boris Johnson, has said he is “anxious” about the variant, and some experts are recommending a pause in the planned lifting of restrictions.
SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 3 : Diseases
B16172 SARS-COV-2 VARIANT
- There is much we still don’t know about the B16172 variant, and it’s unclear whether its emergence will significantly derail plans to lift restrictions around the country.
WHAT IS B16172 ?
- The B16172 is one of three SARS-CoV-2 variants first reported in India.
- You may have heard it referred to as the “double mutant”, which makes no sense from a virology perspective (it has more than two mutations).
- There are recording increasing numbers of cases of this variant, which sparks suspicion about whether it is more transmissible than other viruses, including the now prevalent B117 (Kent).
WHEN WILL WE KNOW IF THE VACCINES WORK AGAINST IT?
- Experiments in the lab currently aim to tell us if antibodies and T cells raised after vaccination are able to control infection by this variant.
- The key question is when we are going to get our hands on real-life data.
- In the UK, an estimated 60-70 per cent of people have antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, either from natural infection or first vaccination. Around 30 per cent of us have received both jabs.
CAN THIS VARIANT CHANGE LOCKDOWN REOPENING PLANS?
- If there is an indication that this variant bypasses vaccine defences, then our current reopening plans will be risk-assessed and re-evaluated.
- Many countries in the rest of the world, such as India, currently suffer high infection rates, with devastating results. These provide fertile grounds for new variants to spread.
- If our vaccines stop working, the only option to prevent increases in mortality will be further restrictions until new vaccines are available.
- But, importantly, there is no indication at the moment that any variant surpasses current vaccine protection against serious COVID-19.
- We need to get better at pouncing on localised outbreaks with strict measures to prevent new variants from taking hold and affecting our way of life.
- The geographically confined nature of these outbreaks lends itself to targeted restrictions.
- Small, localised lockdowns targeting affected schools, businesses, neighbourhoods or towns have the power to control spread immediately and extinguish new outbreaks before they get out of control.
- Rapid sharing of information on new outbreaks is also important, so people in affected areas can change their travel and social plans until it’s safe to resume normal operations.
- With cooperation, localised restrictions should last a matter of weeks, helping everyone return to life as normal quickly and safely.