Coronavirus scientists 'playing poker game' with figures says IDS
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Researchers have warned that relaxing COVID-19 restrictions could pave the way for new vaccine resistant virus mutations. The experts warn against relaxing restrictions prematurely, explaining that rising cases could provide opportunities for the virus to evolve into even more transmissible variants. They expressed concerns over the possibility of variants becoming increasingly resistant to vaccines, making them more dangerous for children and people in vulnerable groups.
Professor Kevin Tyler, lead author in the study, said: “Over the past 17 months, economies, education and mental well-being have suffered tremendously due to the restrictions imposed in an attempt to stem the spread of the pandemic.
“Although vaccines have weakened the link between infection and mortality, they should not be used as an argument to justify a broad change in policy for countries experiencing an exponential increase in infection numbers.
“Relaxing restrictions boosts transmission and allows the virus population to expand, which enhances its adaptive evolutionary potential and increases the risk of vaccine-resistant strains emerging by a process known as antigenic drift.
“Put simply, limiting the spread of COVID-19 as much as possible restricts the number of future deaths by restricting the rate with which new variants arise.”
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Co-lead author of the study and biologist professor Cock Van Oosterhout from UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences, added: “We have an arms race on our hands.
“On the human side, the arms race is fought with vaccines, new technology such as the NHS COVID-19 application, and our behavioural change, but the virus fights back by adapting and evolving.
“It is unlikely we will get ahead in this arms race unless we can significantly reduce the population size of the virus.
“But given that the infection rate is about the same now as it was during the first wave, we are pretty much ‘at evens’ with the virus.”
The remarks come as Boris Johnson is expected to approve the reopening of England’s doors to double-vaccinated tourists from the EU and US, the Financial Times reported last night.
The newspaper said UK ministers pushed the Prime Minister to act, arguing that it was safe to start re-admitting foreign tourists without the need for quarantine if they had received two vaccine doses.
The daily number of COVID-19 cases in the United Kingdom has fallen for a seventh day in a row.
However despite falling infection rates, death within 28 days of a positive test hit 131 on Tuesday, the highest number since March. Hospitalisations have also continued to rise.
The Prime Minister earlier urged people to “remain cautious and not jump to premature conclusions” about the falling numbers.
Speaking of the latest figures, he said: “It’s very important that we don’t allow ourselves to run away with premature conclusions about this.”
Public Health England also stressed the pandemic was “not over yet” and urged people to continue taking precautions.
Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England, suggested that the death and hospitalisation figures are a result of the spike seen in recent weeks, as the delta variant spread rapidly.
The World Health Organization’s weekly COVID-19 update on Tuesday last week reported cases of the Delta variant in 124 countries, along with 3.4 million new cases of COVID-19 around the world, 12 percent higher than the previous week.
A study from Public Health England, published on May 22, found a single-dose of either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine only reduces a person’s risk of developing COVID-19 symptoms caused by the Delta variant by 33 percent.
The risk was reduced by 50 percent for the Alpha variant.
The study found a second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine boosts protection against Delta to 60 percent, while two doses of Pfizer’s jab are 88 percent effective against the Delta variant.
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