Coronavirus News Briefing – Oct. 23: New Virus Sub-Variant Raises Concerns in the U.K.

By Paul Riegler on 23 October 2021
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The Marble Arch monument in London

Health officials across the globe are keeping a close watch on the so-called “delta plus” variant of the coronavirus, formally known as AY.4.2.    This variant adds two new mutations to the spike protein, A222V and Y145H, which allow the virus to enter the body.

Some scientists believe the new sub-variant, which has been identified in over 6% of new infections in the United Kingdom, could be 10% to 15% more transmissible than the original delta variant.

The U.K. Health Security Agency it up into the “variant under investigation” category, to reflect this possible risk.   Health officials do not believe an additional booster will be required to combat AY.4.2.

The new sub-variant has also been detected in five cases in the United States in California, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Washington, and Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is resisting calls to bring back Covid restrictions, despite a nine-month and near-pandemic high of 51,484 new infections on Thursday.

“Our autumn and winter plan always predicted that cases would rise round about now,” the prime minister insisted. Physicians have been calling for extra measures to help ease pressure on the currently overloaded National Health Service.

As of Saturday morning, the world has recorded 243.9 million Covid-19 cases and over 4.95 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 221 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus.

The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in the United States over the past 14 days is 73,896, a -25% change.  The average daily death toll over the same period is 1,504, a change of -15% over the same period.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has as of Saturday recorded 46.3 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 755,721. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, almost 34.2 million, and a death toll of 453,780, although experts believe that both numbers are in reality significantly higher.  Finally, Brazil has recorded the second highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 605,211, and has seen over 21.7 million cases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Saturday, 219.9 million people in the United States – or 66.2% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 57.3%, or 190.2 million people, are now fully vaccinated, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 411 million. Breaking this down further, 79.3% of the population over the age of 18 – or 204.8 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 68.8% of the same group – or 177.7 million people – is fully vaccinated.

More than 3.8 billion people across the globe  have received a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, a figure that roughly equates to 49.6% of the world’s population, a 0.2 percentage point increase in the past 24 hours. There remains, however, a countries such as Canada, China, Denmark, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States, where at least 65% of the population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, and countries such as Ethiopia, Haiti, Syria, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda, for example, where vaccination rates are in the single digits, if not lower.

Figures from the World Health Organization show that well-off countries are vaccinating people at the rate of one person per second, while the majority of poor countries have yet to give a single dose to its citizens.

It is critical that the world do a better job of sharing vaccines with poorer nations.

Sharing vaccines is not merely a form of charity.  Rather, the equitable distribution of vaccines is in every country’s health and economic interest and no country will be able to move past the pandemic until other countries have recovered as well.

Jonathan Spira contributed to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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