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New coronavirus variant under investigation in UK
Scientists have identified 16 cases of a new coronavirus variant in the UK, Public Health England (PHE) has announced.
Cases of the variant, referred to as VUI-202102/04, were first identified on 15 February through genomic horizon scanning. PHE said on Thursday that all individuals who tested positive and their contacts have been traced and advised to isolate. The variant, which is understood to have originated in the UK, was designated a “variant under investigation” (VUI) on 24 February.
Variants of Covid-19 can be identified as VUIs or “variants of concern” (VOCs). New variants emerge regularly and experts are conducting frequent analysis to see which are of concern, and which are not.
The latest identified variant, also known as B.1.1.318, contains the E484K mutation, which is found in two other VUIs present in the UK, but it does not feature the N501Y mutation that is present in all VOCs, PHE said.
The findings mean there are now four VUIs and four VOCs being tracked by scientists in the UK. Other VUIs include one from Brazil, known as P2, which has had 43 probable or confirmed cases identified in the UK, but is not causing scientists serious concern. PHE said that, as of Wednesday, a total of 26 cases of P2 had been found in England where no travel links could be established.
Two further VUIs – dubbed A.23.1 with E484K and B.1.525 – have seen 78 and 86 probable or confirmed UK cases detected respectively. Both were first detected in the UK in December.
WHO to scrap interim report on virus origins – report
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that a World Health Organization team investigating Covid’s origins is planning to scrap an interim report on its recent mission to China amid mounting tensions between Beijing and Washington over the investigation and an appeal from one international group of scientists for a new inquiry.
It reports that a group of two dozen scientists have written an open letter calling for a new international inquiry, claiming that the WHO team that was in Wuhan last month had insufficient access to investigate conceivable sources of the virus, including a possible laboratory leak.
In Geneva, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said in via email: “The full report is expected in coming weeks”.
No further information was immediately available about the reasons for the delay in publishing the findings of the WHO-led mission. China refused to give raw data on early Covid-19 cases to a WHO-led team probing the origins of the pandemic, Dominic Dwyer, one of the team’s investigators said last month, potentially complicating efforts to understand how the outbreak began.
The WHO team all but dismissed the suggestions that the virus may have leaked from a laboratory in a press conference after their mission. But later that week the WHO director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said “all hypotheses remain open and require further analysis and studies”.
Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic with me, Helen Sullivan.
The World Health Organization is planning to scrap an interim report on the investigation into the virus origins in Wuhan, China, the Wall Street Journal reports, amid a call from scientists to begin a fresh inquiry. More on this shortly.
Meanwhile in the UK, scientists have identified 16 cases of a new coronavirus variant, Public Health England (PHE) has announced.
The variant, which is understood to have originated in the UK, was designated a “variant under investigation” (VUI) on 24 February.
Here are the other key developments from the last few hours:
- Sweden and Germany extended their recommendation for the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine to cover people aged over 65 after previously said lacked sufficient data, until recent studies.
- Russia expects several EU countries to approve the use of its Sputnik V vaccine this month and Moscow could provide vaccines for 50 million Europeans starting from June if the shot wins EU-wide approval, Russia’s RDIF fund said.
- Italy halted a shipment of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine due for Australia. It came after the EU introduced new rules governing the shipment of vaccines outside the bloc, although this is the first intervention of its kind.
- Cuba has begun late-stage trials of its most advanced experimental Covid-19 vaccine, edging closer to a potential home-grown inoculation campaign after shunning foreign jabs.
- Brazil’s second biggest city of Rio de Janeiro will be the latest to adopt new Covid restrictions from tomorrow, including a night curfew, in a bid to stall a second wave of the virus.
- Italy and Germany will administer just a single coronavirus vaccine dose to people who have been infected with the virus up to six months beforehand, amid a scramble to save shots.
- More than four in 10 over-80s in England may have met with someone outside of their support bubble within three weeks of receiving the first jab, an official survey suggested.
- France criticised a push by Austria and Denmark to coordinate with Israel on developing new Covid-19 jabs, as EU unity frays even further over its troubled vaccine rollout.
- The San Diego zoo gave nine orangutans and bonobos an experimental coronavirus vaccine, the first known non-human primates to receive a Covid-19 vaccine in the US.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Coronavirus live news: WHO ‘to scrap’ interim Wuhan report; UK investigating new variant | World news