New coronavirus variant reaches Canada

new coronavirus variant reaches canada
Photo via Sébastien Launay/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

A new coronavirus variant which led to pre-Christmas lockdown measures in London and other parts of Great Britain has now reached Canada. 

CBC reported that a couple in Ontario tested positive for the new coronavirus variant on Dec. 26. The couple had “no known travel history, exposure or high-risk contacts,” leading health officials to wonder, with inbound international travel still allowed into Canada, how prevalent the new variant is in Canada and how it might further spread in the coming weeks. 

Canada joins a growing list of nations to report people infected with the new coronavirus variant; CBC noted that Denmark, Belgium, Australia and the Netherlands are among the most recent nations to report it. Business Insider, remarking that the virus appears to be up to 70 more transmissible than prior versions, notes that this new coronavirus variant is also in France, Germany, Italy, Lebanon, Sweden, Switzerland, South Africa, and even Australia, Singapore, and Japan. 

U.S. health officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, believe this version of the virus to be similar to others in two important respects: How sick it makes people, and how resistant it is to the vaccines that began being circulated in the U.S. and U.K. earlier this month. 

“Does it make someone more ill? Is it more serious virus in the sense of virulence?” Fauci asked rhetorically in an AP News article published on the ABC News site Dec. 27. “And the answer is, it doesn’t appear to be that way.” Though the article also noted British officials are counseling their colleagues in the U.S. that the vaccines will able to address the new variant, Fauci hinted at independent studies from American scientists. 

One American scientist, University of Arizona biologist Michael Worobey, expressed concern in a Dec. 23 CNN article that the new coronavirus variant might actually be able to “outsmart” the vaccines that have been developed to combat the pandemic. 

The article noted that this new variant has an unusually large number of mutations — 14 changes and 3 deletions in its genetic code that impact the building blocks of its proteins, with leads Worobey to be especially concerned. 

“The mutations are indeed worrisome, they ALL need to be tested,” Bette Korber, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, wrote to CNN when asked to provide additional advisement on the matter. 

Sources: CBC, Business Insider, AP (via ABC News), CNN

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