As the UK variant of Covid-19 spreads across Europe, the World Health Organization has called for European nations to enact stricter measures to curb its transmission.
Hans Kluge, the Europe Director of the WHO, stated on Thursday that more measures, possibly including mass vaccination drives and lockdowns, are necessary to “flatten the steep vertical line” of new cases in Europe.
Although more testing is required, most scientists are convinced that the widely-effective Covid vaccines will protect those inoculated from variants such as this one.
The fast-spreading variant, first identified in the UK in November, has been diagnosed in countries across the world, but is extremely prevalent in Europe.
Officials are concerned at the Covid mutation’s accelerated rate of transmission in Europe, where almost half of the region’s countries, 22 in total, have diagnosed cases of the UK variant, including Greece and Cyprus.
It is currently unclear whether the new variant leads to more severe cases of the virus or not, but scientists have determined that the mutation spreads much faster than the non-variant coronavirus.
Due to the mutation’s extremely contagious nature, Kluge argued that countries must be proactive in testing positive Covid-19 samples for the variant.
The World Health Organization released a statement saying that the new variant was responsible for over half of new cases in the UK, and is most prevalent among young people.
While the variant has not been linked to more severe cases of the coronavirus, Kluge asserted that it does “raise alarm: without increased control to slow its spread, there will be an increased impact on already stressed and pressurized health facilities.”
At the moment, a number of European nations, including Greece and Britain, are under strict national lockdown.
Kluge argued that measures such as these may be necessary in curbing the spread of the UK variant: “for a short period of time we need to do more than we have done and to intensify the public health and social measures” to reduce transmission of the mutation.
When a person is infected with a virus, it makes copies of itself inside their body. Mutations begin to form as enzymes, responsible for copying the RNA of the virus, are prone to making mistakes in the multiplication process. Often, these mistakes are marginal.
If the host of these viruses with mistakes in its RNA spreads the illness, it becomes a variant or mutation. Commonly, these mutations have little difference from the standard virus, or can even be less contagious.
Until the discovery of the UK variant, scientists were surprised that more variants of Covid-19 had not been identified throughout the pandemic.
Further research showed that this lack of Covid mutations is due to the fact that there is an enzyme present in the virus that goes back to “fix” the mistakes made by the other enzyme responsible for copying the virus’ RNA.