“When we identify cases of a new variable, we respond quickly and drastically reduce our size by improving sequencing and testing,” the health minister said. However, in this case, “one of the six cases completed a test but failed to complete the contact details successfully.” This is the weakness of the public health policy of a simple human error. The frenzied chase continues – a tale of greater anxiety that is ravaging the government, at least in secret.
So far, the important Covid variants that have emerged have not posed a serious problem with the protection that vaccines provide. The Kent mutation at the center of the second wave is more transmissible than the original Covid, but more importantly, it cannot penetrate the shield provided by AstraZeneca and Pfizer.
Early data on the South African alternative suggests that the vaccine is not a guarantee against mild disease, but those who have been vaccinated are still unlikely to develop severe symptoms. About the latter Brazilian variant (there are two types so far, this one is P1 rated), much less is known.
I’ve spent much of the last few weeks immersing myself in the sophisticated boiler of Covid variants for an in-depth audio report by Tortoise Media. The most surprising finding was the following: Boris Johnson’s approach to easing the lockdown was driven as much by concern about the virus’s ability to mutate as it was by (justified) optimism about the vaccine deployment.
When the prime minister drafted his plan, I was told, his scientific advisers warned him that the next month or so poses a huge pandemic risk, not just in this country, but globally. The genetic sequence, in which the UK excels, indicates that the variants were appearing at an alarming rate and that there was a palpable risk in the coming weeks of one or more emergence, posing a sudden and significant threat.
It must be emphasized that this was not a prophecy of an imminent plague and the end of the world. But according to a source close to the prime minister, “the warning definitely entered his skin.” This helps understand the caveat in the government’s 68-page plan released on February 22. Details of the same plan were presented in the House of Commons and at Johnson’s subsequent press conference as the fruits of a successful vaccine strategy, revealing concerns about the viral mutation (the word variable appears 53 times). Most importantly, the plan includes a very important handbrake clause that states that the plan will only continue if[o]Our risk assessment is not fundamentally altered by the new variables of concern. ”
One of these mutations is the newest Brazilian “flavor” (as virologists like to call it) that has so far affected a small number of people in this country, as far as we know. But behind the scenes, ministers are more concerned than they suggest about its potential spread, and more specifically, what other differences may follow.
A similar hesitation can be detected in the scientific community and pharmaceutical companies. There is a certain collective reluctance to provoke public anxiety in the face of threats that have yet to appear, or the risk of panic. There is a legitimate fear, a government science advisor told me, “A fine point in an academic report will turn into a terrible threat in the media when it is really just a matter of experimenting with reflection.”
On the one hand, it should be noted that in the first 11 months of the pandemic, flight and bombing have always caused problems for the government (especially with regard to the catastrophic failure of tests and traces) and transparency has served well. He was at his best when he was upfront about the risks ahead.)
Nobody wants Corporal Jones Lance’s very airy # 10 shouting “Don’t panic!” But there is a balance to be found. The case of Inspector Hancock’s missing Brazilian patient is a warning of many uncertainties to come. We must face these uncertainties and win the unwavering frankness that will allow us to do so.
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