Friday, 3 Feb 2023

China opening up could ‘certainly’ lead to new Covid variant

This Morning: Dr Zoe talks about new Covid variant XBB1.5

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Mr Landry, of Respiratory Therapy Zone, said: “As a health expert with years of experience studying infectious diseases, I can confidently say that the high infection rate and opening up of China could certainly lead to the emergence of a new variant of the virus.

“We have seen this happen before with other viruses, such as the H1N1 influenza virus, which underwent numerous genetic changes as it spread around the globe.

“One only needs to look at the rapid spread of COVID-19 within China and across the globe to see the potential for new variants to emerge.

“The virus has already undergone numerous genetic changes since it was first identified, leading to the emergence of different strains such as the UK variant, the South African variant, and the Brazilian variant.”

The development of new variants then, is nothing new, but the concern is over what shape the variant may take. Not everyone in China is vaccinated and few of those that aren’t may not have immunity from a previous infection due to the nation’s strict lockdowns.

READ MORE: NHS staff shortages laid bare in England

What’s more concerning for the UK is whether it is prepared. Even without a potential new variant making its way through the country, the NHS is still stretched beyond its feasible limits.

On whether a new form of the virus could sweep through the country, Mr Landry commented: “The likelihood of a new variant taking hold in the UK will depend on a number of factors, including the effectiveness of vaccines and public health measures in controlling the spread of the virus.

“It is important for governments and public health agencies to remain vigilant and continue to monitor the spread of the virus, as well as to invest in research and development of new vaccines and treatments to help mitigate the impact of any new variants.”

However, in recent months, the Government has pulled down some of its Covid vigilance measures, it still keeps a keen eye on developments, but the walls are not as thick as they once were.

Furthermore, it has having to deal with a very real threat from Covid this winter.

Known as XBB1.5, the new variant has seemingly swept through the country without many people noticing.

Virological reports show this form of the virus began circulating in the UK in Septemebr last year and came with a mutation that allowed it to more effectively get round the immune system.

It is because of this and other mutations that the virus has been able to spread more easily and thus contribute to the ‘Twindemic’ currently hitting the UK.

What is a ‘Twindemic’?

A twindemic occurs when two waves of virus hit a country at the same time. In the case of this Twindemic, those two waves have been flu and COVID-19.

It had been predicted that this would hit the UK in October or November, but instead it has hit at the very point where the NHS is under its greatest pressure.

Now it has a foothold, questions now turn to whether the current arsenal of vaccines will provide those who are vaccinated with enough protection.

The truth is we don’t yet know. Further tests need to be carried out to ascertain how effictively they work against XBB1.5.

In common with other variants that have swept through the UK, experts say it is a case of waiting and reacting appropriately.

The lockdowns of the pandemic may be firmly in the nation’s past, but Covid remains an ever present threat.

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