Breakingviews – Breakdown: Slaying virus Hydra is Herculean task

LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) – According to Greek myth, the multi-headed Hydra would immediately regrow a head after one was chopped off. The serpentine creature, eventually slain by the wily Hercules, comes to mind as governments and medical professionals grapple with mutations of Covid-19. Though vaccines are highly effective at stopping the original virus, they are less well-equipped to defeat its variants. The world faces a lengthy battle.


Viruses are constantly mutating: Covid-19 has so far spawned some 4,000 variants. Although many display the same characteristics as the conventional variety that emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan, a trio of mutations named after the places they originated are of particular concern. The Kent variant, first detected in the British county, spreads more easily. A Brazilian version is also causing concern. The South Africa mutation, known as B.1.351, is the most worrying. It is suspected to be 70% more transmissible than the original and has already spread to 32 countries. Crucially, its mutations give it a kind of cloaking device that allow it to hide from the antibodies created by vaccines. This raises the risk of people who have had jabs still getting sick. The British government was so concerned about the new mutation earlier this month that it embarked on a door-to-door testing blitz of 80,000 people after detecting just 11 cases of the variant in people with no links to recent arrivals from South Africa.

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