A new variant of the coronavirus first identified in the United Kingdom has sparked alarm across the globe. A similar mutation was also reported from South Africa and countries like Netherlands and Denmark and now detected in Sindh and the federal health authorities have been updated about it, it emerged on Tuesday.
The new strain, referred to by some experts as the B.1.17 lineage, is not the first variant of COVID-19 pandemic, but it is said to be up to 70% more transmissible than the previously dominant strain in the UK. After the British government officially announced the detection of the mutation, many countries, including Pakistan, have imposed travel bans on the UK.
The variant, called B.1.1.7., has a handful of mutations in its genetic code. Some of these mutations slightly alter the virus’s so-called spike protein, which allows it to bind to and infect cells. It was first detected in September. In November around a quarter of cases in London were the new variant. This reached nearly two-thirds of cases in mid-December. You can see how the variant has come to dominate the results of testing in some centres such as the Milton Keynes Lighthouse Laboratory.
Pakistan announced its updated standard operating procedures (SOPs) for travel restrictions imposed on inbound travelers from the United Kingdom, after cases of a highly new infectious strain of the coronavirus rose across the European country. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced Tuesday that Pakistani passport holders who have been issued the Business, Visitor or Transit visas by British authorities can return to the country provided they show a negative PCR test. The test, however, must have been taken 72 hours prior to the start of their travel to Pakistan, said the aviation authority.
The variant is unusually highly mutated. The most likely explanation is the variant has emerged in a patient with a weakened immune system that was unable to beat the virus. Instead their body became a breeding ground for the virus to mutate.