WORLD New COVID-19 strain provokes global alarm, unlikely to compromise vaccine effectiveness

WORLD

New COVID-19 strain provokes global alarm, unlikely to compromise vaccine effectiveness

Xinhua

11:40, December 23, 2020

Photo taken on Dec. 21, 2020 shows The Mall in front of Buckingham Palace in London, Britain. (Photo: Xinhua)

For Britons, Europeans and perhaps a significant number of people around the world, the coming Christmas holiday is like no other -- a "coronavirus Christmas" when people will be largely grounded indoors as they are bracing themselves for a challenging time together.

A highly infectious new strain of the coronavirus recently reported in Britain has sounded fresh alarm on COVID-19 which has infected more than 77 million people and caused over 1.7 million deaths worldwide.

The new variant has sent Britons particularly on another "rollercoaster" ride of their emotions as the planned relaxation of coronavirus rules for Christmas was replaced by yet tougher new measures rolled out Saturday.

Countries have followed suit to announce plans to ban flights from Britain over concerns about a further spread of the new virus strain in this grave battle between virus and vaccines.

"OUT OF CONTROL"

According to official data released Monday, another 33,364 people in Britain have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the nationwide tally to 2,073,511, and death toll from the virus has risen by 215 to 67,616.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Sunday warned that a new strain of COVID-19 is "out of control" in Britain.

"It is going to be very difficult to keep it under control until we have the vaccine rolled out," he said. "We know with this new variant you can catch it more easily from a small amount of the virus being present.

The British government's Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance has said the new variant was first seen in mid-September in London and Kent.

By December, the new variant had become the "dominant variant" in London, and by the week ending Dec. 9, it had accounted for 62 percent of cases in London, 59 percent of those in eastern England, and 43 percent in the south-east, according to Vallance.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday announced stronger coronavirus restrictions to combat an alarming surge in infections linked to the highly contagious new strain.

"New variant may be up to 70 percent more transmissible," he told a Downing Street virtual press conference, adding the spread is being driven by the new variant of the virus.

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