Health experts fear that England may become an incubator for Covid variants


LONDON, ENGLAND – JULY 24: A long line of club-goers waiting to enter the Heaven nightclub on July 24, 2021 in London, England.

Rob Pinney | Getty Images

LONDON – England’s relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions risks the emergence of new potentially more dangerous variants of the virus, scientists have warned.

England lifted most of the last remaining restrictions on July 19, including the mask and social distance. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland still have some restrictions in place.

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, has previously described the lifting of the restrictions as “irreversible.”

However, the reopening policy has been publicly criticized by a consortium of more than 1200 scientists from around the world.

One concern is around the possible consequences of shelling out society amid high rates of infection and a partially vaccinated population, and how unrestricted mixing in these circumstances could shape the way the virus evolves.

“If I were to conceive of a massive experiment to create a more dangerous virus, one that would be able to exploit with our vaccines, I would do what the UK proposes to do,” said Michael Haseltine, American virologist and president and president of ACCESS Health International , said the Good Morning Britain news program in the so-called “Freedom Day.”

“Half of the population is vaccinated in the midst of a rampant pandemic, which would allow the virus to learn to avoid our vaccines. That’s what I will do, and the rest of the world is justifiably concerned.”

Every time a person is infected with Covid-19, they go from having a few copies of the virus to hundreds of thousands or even tens of millions of copies in their system. When the virus makes a copy of itself, there is a possibility of making a mistake in the new copy that could give an advantage to the virus.

“It rolls the dice every time someone is infected,” Charlotte Houldcroft, a scientist working on the evolution of the virus at Cambridge University, told CNBC by phone.

“In a large population with many infections going on, you’re just rolling the dice more often – any population with multiple people infected at the time is a concern, which is obviously why a lot of the rest of the world watches the UK.”

During the week ending July 29, 204,669 people tested positive for Covid-19 in the UK, down 37% from the previous week.

A UK government spokesman said there had been no change in the government’s position on the decision to ease the restrictions, referring to comments made by the prime minister on 12 July. colder weather, “that the virus acquires a greater natural advantage and when schools return.”

Hà avvistatu: “This pandemic is not over. This coronavirus disease continues to carry risks for you and your family.”

Houldcroft told CNBC that it was unclear how the coronavirus would respond to the “immune pressure of many vaccinated people.”

“Vaccines are very powerful – they prevent new infections,” he said. “But they also put a lot of selection pressure on the virus, so any virus that comes with a mutation that makes it better to infect vaccinated people would have an advantage.”


Christina Pagel, director of the Clinical Operations Research Unit at UCL in London, told CNBC by telephone that there was “a fairly large risk” of a vaccine-resistant variant emerging in England following the government’s decision to calm restrictions.

“But it’s all over Europe, the United States, Canada, where infections are growing everywhere – all these high-income countries are in the same situation, and a vaccine-resistant variant could be born in each of them,” he said. he said. noting that such a variant could “really push” in highly populated, well-vaccinated states and cities.

Travel risks

The weekend after the restrictions were lifted it has been the busiest for airlines and airports in the UK since the pandemic, the BBC said. Heathrow’s London airport said it was expecting 60,000 passengers to depart per day, while the capital’s Gatwick airport was expecting 250 flights each day. Amid the crisis, flight numbers have fallen to a 15-day low in Gatwick, according to the BBC.

Meanwhile, the British government announced Wednesday that international cruises will be allowed to resume from the UK on 2 August. Passengers arriving from “amber list” countries that have been vaccinated throughout Europe or the United States will be exempt from quarantine upon arrival in England from that date.

Pagel said allowing vaccinated people to skip quarantine was not “a good idea” since people vaccinated with the delta variant can transmit the coronavirus fairly easily.

“By definition, what worries us is Covid that may affect vaccinated people. I don’t think our summer travel policy will do anything about the new variants,” he said. “We’re hoping we’re lucky, and so far, it looks like none of the variants that exist are yet completely resistant to vaccination. We’ll just have to wait and see why in the end, if that type of variant is born it’s random. . “

Covid-19 “not done”

“These are very ancient creatures,” Haseltine said. “We are fighting tens or hundreds of millions of years of evolution when we try to understand and predict what will happen. These viruses have the ability to manipulate our immune system.”

Haseltine cataloged up to at least 35 different ways Covid-19 is capable of evading the human immune system – but said the virus “isn’t done.”

“It’s like a thief breaking into your house and cutting off the fire alarm,” he said. “Their only job is to sort through the goods and go to the house next door. The more barriers they put in, the smarter they are. I’m not optimistic that we’re at the end of the variation – I’m reasonably sure the new variants are already there. out of. “

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