There’s been a lot of news, the last few days, about a new strain of the coronavirus discovered in England, and its implications.
In short, it seems this new strain may be more readily passed from person to person. I’ve put a copy of an investigative report into the new strain online for you to review if you wish. The analysis is preliminary rather than definitive, but several different indicators seem to suggest this new strain can and is spreading more rapidly than other strains.
There are a couple of other things to keep in mind. The first is the seemingly bland statement
Antigenic escape. The location of the mutations in the receptor binding domain of the spike glycoprotein raises the possibility that this variant is antigenically distinct from prior variants. Four probable reinfections have been identified amongst 915 subjects with this variant but further work is needed to compare this reinfection rate with comparable data sets.
What is antigenic escape? It means when a virus changes such that the body’s immune system no longer recognizes it as a known threat and no longer knows how to respond to it.
Actually, the numbers quoted don’t necessarily point to antigenic escape. The numbers are almost exactly what you’d expect if the acquired immunity after infection fades after three months, which was an earlier guesstimate. But we’ll have to wait and see what the explanation is, and in particular, what the implication might be in terms of the vaccines just now starting to appear.
The other thing, not mentioned in the document, but referred to in this article, is that the virus is mutating all the time. Indeed, as more and more instances of the virus are out there, it will seem to mutate more rapidly. There are known to be at least 1,000 mutations having occurred so far. Most mutations are of little or no impact, and some are as likely to harm the virus as make it “stronger”. Unfortunately, with this “evolution in action”, mutations that are not beneficial to the virus (but potentially beneficial to us!) don’t survive.
Oh, back to the antigenic escape. Here’s a technically complex paper, but it suggests that this may be occurring elsewhere, too.
So, if you want some pre-Christmas gloom, imagine every day you’re playing Russian roulette. The best case scenario is you live to play the game again tomorrow. The worst case scenario? Doesn’t bear thinking about! It is worth remembering the Spanish ‘flu came back in the second year in a new more virulent form. That of course doesn’t predestine the same to happen to this virus too, and there’s still the “Hail Mary” hope of the vaccines working safely and remaining effective for many different mutations.
But don’t throw away your face masks just yet. And you still stand to get enormous benefit from a copy of my book, The Covid Survival Guide, now available for pre-order on Amazon, and scheduled to be electronically in your hands some time late Monday/early Tuesday.
Still talking about the UK, I was chatting with a friend there about the impact of the virus on their Prime Minister and his popularity. He expects Johnson will be out of office by Easter, in large part because of the approach the British have taken to the virus, and perhaps also as a bit of post-Brexit fallout – at present, the final exit from the EU is scheduled for the new year and much has not yet been arranged or coordinated.
He is probably right, but I was reflecting on the unfairness of this. When faced with a choice between blaming
- An implacable virus
- Public misbehavior
- The Prime Minister
it seems pre-ordained who the obvious scapegoat will be. While he definitely has made a stunning dog’s breakfast of every part of this saga and his uncoordinated, confused, and contradictory approach to it, the reality is the virus is an implacable foe, and the “public misbehavior” issue is also a massive contributor.
Why do I say that? Well, after announcing that due to greater than expected levels of virus prevalence and the new 70% more infectious strain breaking loose, Boris announced even stricter lockdown measures, and cancelled the earlier break in restrictions over the Christmas period (something that was always a strange and ill-advised concept).
So what happened in the few hours between that announcement and it taking effect? Did people cancel their travel plans, stock up on food and toilet paper, and get ready for a less joyful Christmas where they live at present? Or did they rush to the nearest train station to urgently travel before the lockdown started?
This article and video shows the unsurprising response.
I feel sorry for Boris and his seemingly inevitable ouster from office some time in 2021.
In the US, North Dakota suddenly appeared in the death rate list, displacing Louisiana which dropped four places.
In the minor country list, Georgia moved up two places, and Slovenia appeared at ninth place. Qatar dropped three places and Aruba disappeared. In the major country list, the US moved up to second place, but not really closing the distance on the Czech Rep which remains in the first place. Both the Netherlands and Sweden moved up two places.
There’s not much movement on the death list, although the US is slowly closing the gap on the UK.
US Best and Worst States
|A week ago||Now||A week ago||Now|
|1 Best||VT (9,220)||VT (10,326)||VT (152)||VT (178)|
|5||NH (22,767)||NH (26,875)||OR (274)||OR (318)|
|47||WI (75,016)||WI (78,520)||CT (1,504)||CT (1,565)|
|51 Worst||ND (115,307)||ND (118,152)||NJ (2,015)||NJ (2,063)|
Top Case Rates Minor Countries (cases per million)
|Rank||One Week Ago||Today|
|1||Andorra (94,903)||Andorra (97,992)|
|4||San Marino||San Marino|
|5||French Polynesia||French Polynesia|
|10||Aruba (47,200)||Qatar (50,574)|
Top Case Rates Major Countries (cases per million)
|Rank||One Week Ago||Today|
|1||Czech Republic (54,029)||Czech Republic (58,231)|
|12||Poland (30,022)||Poland (31,795)|
Top Death Rate Major Countries (deaths per million)
|Rank||One Week Ago||Today|
|1||Belgium (1,542)||Belgium (1,604)|
|5||UK (943)||UK (990)|
|6||USA (923)||USA (979)|
|8||Czech Republic (890)||France|
|10||Mexico (878)||Mexico (912)|
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Items below include updates on ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine (both positive), an unexpected reason why some of the promised inexpensive and fast virus test kits are not making it to market, how it is that the near-fatal allergic reactions to the Pfizer vaccine were never reported on by Pfizer in its testing of tens of thousands of trial subjects, whether two vaccines would be twice as good as one, and how much vaccines cost. Also, do public officials in NY have super-bladders, and Tom Cruise shows us all how self-centered and selfish movie stars can be. Plus, why is United Airlines so naive as to trust us?
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Please stay happy and healthy; all going well, I’ll be back again on Thursday.