B.1.1.7, what a bad coincidence!

There has been a breaking news from the United Kingdom that a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 (B.1.1.7) was confirmed to acquire 17 effective mutations. Until today (22 December 2020), the mutations were known to be associated to an increase in transmissibility of the virus by 70%; given that the new virus was first identified in September and it was causing an outbreak in December in the UK (with a four-month delay), I cautiously believe that the virus could possibly be spreading out: we might soon see some outbreaks elsewhere after a month or so!

For the time being, we have to examine some further information: 1) provided the new virus becomes more infectious, is it getting more deadly? 2) Are younger people more susceptible (as in the 4th outbreak of Hong Kong)? 3) Can the new virus re-infect those recovered patients? 4) Are the vaccines and other established treatments still effective on that new virus? On the other hand, we also want to keep an eye on a phenomenon called ‘antibody-dependent enhancement’ (which was mentioned before).

As discussed previously, the 4th COVID-19 outbreak occurred in Hong Kong one month earlier in December 2020; I humbly believe that the current 4th outbreak might (merge with the 5th outbreak and) last until early summer (like May 2021), when the temperature apparently becomes warmer. We will have to be highly alert that the 5th outbreak could be linked to the new virus from the UK! Let us play it safe to minimize unnecessary social activities and to replace face-to-face classes by online teaching.

Good luck to the UK!

(Photo credit: The Chinese University of Hong Kong)

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