COVID variants alert issues by government

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A new Covid mutant strain B.1.1.1529 has the world on alert

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COVID variants alert issues by government

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  • The story: The Union Health Ministry issued an alert on the risk posed by South African variant of COVID-19. This sudden development has taken the markets by surprise, and indices started crumbling.
  • The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has reported that multiple cases of “COVID-19 variant B.1.1529” have been reported in recent time. Botswana reported 3 cases, South Africa reported 6 cases while Honk Kong reported 1 case. The variant was reported to have a significantly high number of mutations. Thus, it has serious public health implications in light of relaxed visa restrictions and opening up of international travel.
  • New norms: These countries are part of ‘at risk’ country category of international travellers who are coming to India. These travellers will be subjected to rigorous screening and testing. Their contacts will be closely tracked and tested in accordance with the health ministry guidelines for this category. In case they test positive, their samples must be sent to the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG).
  • INSACOG: It is the forum established under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare on December 25, 2020, to study and monitor genome sequencing and virus variation of different strains of COVID-19 in India. It was earlier tasked to study the virus variant Lineage B.1.1.7 which was found in United Kingdom. The forum works as a consortium of 28 national laboratories for genome sequencing, which are located in different parts of India.
  • Technical details: The B.1.1.529 variant has 50 mutations overall, including more than 30 on the spike protein alone. The spike protein is the target of most current COVID-19 vaccines and is what the virus uses to unlock access to our body's cells. Researchers are still trying to confirm whether this makes it more transmissible or lethal than earlier variants. There are also 10 mutations on the receptor binding domain part of the variant, compared to two for the Delta variant. The Delta Plus that mutated from the latter was characterised by the K417N mutation on the spike protein; this has been linked to immune escape, but it is unclear if this is among the mutations in B.1.1.529. There is speculation on the variant's origin, but it may have evolved from a single patient.
  • EXAM QUESTIONS: (1) Compare and contrast the various mutants of the Covid-19 virus, and their impact. (2) What is the difference between morbidity, mortality and transmissibility, in terms of a virus's potential? Explain in simple terms.
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                    PT's IAS Academy: COVID variants alert issues by government
                    COVID variants alert issues by government
                    A new Covid mutant strain B.1.1.1529 has the world on alert
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