I would not have believed a week ago that Holyrood or Westminster lawmakers would seriously consider another March-style protracted lockout.
But this has been modified by increasing concern about not one but two extremely infectious variants of the new coronavirus circulating in Britain.
Now, as we plan to start the new year, it is difficult for me to imagine anything more in store for us.
If there is anything to go through in South Africa and Southeast England, softer limits on circulatory interruption won’t be enough.
As a matter of fact, we would need something harder than we had in March.
A briefing by NERVTAG (New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group) scientists from the U.K. noted that the U.K. “has shown exponential growth during a period when national cutoff measures were in place.”has shown exponential growth.
The UK form is associated with 14 per cent of Covid infections in Scotland.
Compliance with the guidelines for remaining at home and, in particular, self-isolation, must be highly closely regulated to contain the spread of this strain – something that has performed badly in the UK.
In France, during lockout, anybody leaving their home must fill out a certificate (‘declaration’) specifying the reasons for leaving, e.g. essential jobs, picking up school children, picking up medicine. Without a legitimate excuse, residents found leaving their home or traveling further than the kilometer allowed from their property will be fined € 135 (£ 120).
In Greece, people must write to a five-digit government number their name, address and purpose for leaving their home in order to request permission to leave.
This may be anathema to life in the United Kingdom, but it may be a coincidence that both Nicola Sturgeon and the United Kingdom have been in recent days (regarding the rules for leaving home) Health Minister Matt Hancock has increased the possibility of legal compliance for both (in terms of quarantine if you’ve been to South Africa or are in touch with someone who has)?
In the south and east of England, where the mutant strain is concentrated, coronavirus cases have increased while decreasing in other areas (ONS Infection survey)
We are in a precarious situation, the worst since the virus first came to the UK, certainly. -and while the possibility of mass vaccination provides optimism, we still have a long way to go, at least until mid-2021, until it is possible that significant population coverage will be achieved.
As experts fear, if these variants take hold, we will have to think seriously about better logistical and financial support to allow individuals to self-isolate, whether in the form of quarantine hotels and more generous isolation payments for low-income earners, or simply easier access (in Taiwan, people are automatically paid a $33 per day stipend, but violators face fines ranging from $3,000 to $333 per day
So what do we know so far about these Christmas-cancelled versions that are threatening to overshadow the New Year?
There are a total of 29 mutations from the original Wuhan cluster in the UK version, known as VUI 202012/01 (as in the first ‘Variant Under Investigation’ in December 2020) – 17 of which seem to have occurred all at once.
We should have had a regular Christmas, but July was the time.
The current leading hypothesis – although research is continuing – is that the variant first appeared in September in a patient who had been ill with the infection for a long time, likely in the Kent area, increasing the risk for mutations.
There are, of course, “copying errors” that occur at the molecular level as the virus replicates in its human hosts and spreads. Think of it as a 300-page book in which, as new copies come out of the press, a few letters change positions randomly now and then.
Occasionally, a “selective advantage” is provided by one of these mutations – for example, it makes a virus more transmissible. However, the more infectious a virus becomes, the more its lethality declines, as a general rule in virology.
For example, about 11 percent of those who contracted the disease were killed by the original 2003 SARS, while the current SARS-CoV-2 version had an estimated mortality of about 11 percent.