UK Officials on New COVID-19 Strain Tests House-to-House in England Photo: ABCNews

UK begins tests house-to-house to curb spread of new COVID-19 variant

*British Health Secretary Matt Hancock declares it is critical for everyone in designated areas to stay at home unless travel is absolutely essential, so as to stop the spread and break chains of transmission of the new Coronavirus strain

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

In view of the reported fatal nature of new Coronavirus (COVID-19) strain discovered in United Kingdom (UK), house-by-house COVID-19 testing has begun in some communities in England, as authorities intensify efforts at extinguishing the new virus variant before it spreads widely and undermines a nationwide vaccination programme.

Boxes of home testing kits for COVID-19 from Britain’s Department of Health are given out to distributors to go door-to-door delivering them to residents in Woking, England, Tuesday, February 2, 2021, during England’s third national lockdown, reports Associated Press.

Authorities want to reach the 80,000 residents of eight areas where the variant, first identified in South Africa, is known to be spreading because a handful of cases have been detected among people who have had no contact with the country or anyone who travelled there.

Officials are dispatching home testing kits and mobile testing units in an effort to reach every resident of those communities.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said of the development to the British House of Commons Tuesday, that it is “critical” for everyone in these areas to stay at home unless travel is absolutely essential.

“Our mission must be to stop its spread altogether and break those chains of transmission.”

It is noted that public health officials are concerned about the variant first identified in South Africa because it contains a mutation of the virus’ characteristic spike protein that existing vaccines target.

The mutation may mean the vaccines offer less protection against the variant, according to experts.

Report stated as the door-to-door testing drive got underway, Public Health England also said scientists had discovered the same spike protein mutation in 11 cases involving another variant that is now the most prevalent form of the virus in England.

The mutation had not previously been detected in the so-called Kent variant, named for the English county where it was first identified.

While viruses mutate constantly, most of the changes cause little concern.

But scientists are closely tracking mutations in the virus that causes COVID-19 to make sure they quickly identify variants of concern.

Dr. Julian Tang, a clinical virologist at the University of Leicester, UK, said in a written statement, that discovery of the spike protein mutation in the Kent variant was a “worrying development, though not entirely unexpected.

“Closing borders/restricting travel may help a little with this, but there is now probably already a sufficient critical mass of virus-infected people within the endemic UK population to allow this natural selection/evolution to proceed — as this report suggests — so we really need to stick to the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions as much as possible.”

British authorities in the fall identified the Kent variant as one they were concerned about because it was more contagious than other variants then circulating in the country.

It is now the dominant variant in England, according to report.

In recent weeks, scientists also identified new, more contagious variants in South Africa and Brazil, both of which contained the spike protein mutation.

In hopes of preventing those variants from becoming widespread in Britain, the government has barred travel from South Africa, South America and Portugal, a popular European transit point for travelers from South America.

Similarly, the discovery that the variant from South Africa is spreading in the community has led to calls to shut the UK’s borders to all international travellers or to require a 14-day hotel quarantine for everyone entering the country.

Andrew Hayward, a professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at University College London, nonetheless, told the Sky News that closing the borders is not sustainable.

Hayward stated: “You can think about completely shutting the borders or having quarantine, (but) what’s the end game in that?’’

“Is that something that you’re going to do forever, because it looks like these strains may continue to arise in the long term? So we need some sort of sustainable strategy, and I think that’s very difficult for politicians to think about that.”

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