Red Light Flashing for PM’s Trip to India as 77 Cases of “Double Mutant” Indian Virus Detected in England

Bangladesh and Pakistan were added to the travel red list last Friday, inexplicably India was not added to the list. One source says “It is frankly insane that Bangladesh and Pakistan are on the UK travel red list countries but India is not.” In the nation’s capital New Delhi, the Covid situation is so bad that patients are 2 to a bed in hospital…

The number of new cases in India shows the virus is raging out of control, the country recorded 200,739 new cases in 24 hours yesterday. The surge in cases is at a rate that is 5 times higher than it was when the PM’s long-scheduled trip to India was cancelled in January. Can the trip, planned for the end of the month, really go ahead with the pandemic raging out of control around Modi?

The Joint Biosecurity Centre is nominally responsible for determining which countries are on the red list, the criteria they use include:

  • An estimate of the proportion of the population that is currently infected (this is known as ‘point prevalence’)
  • Weekly incidence rate and population size of the country, territory or island (noting smaller population sizes will show more volatility)
  • Trends in incidence, deaths, hospitalisations and intensive care admissions
  • information on laboratory capacity, testing and contact tracing strategies, and test positivity rates
  • COVID-19 cases detected in the UK with recent international travel history (imported infections)
  • Qualitative information related to the reliability of reported data and the maturity of public health systems
  • Public health measures in place and the enforcement of, and adherence to, those measures
  • Variations of the above metrics within countries, territories or islands, and information on disease clusters

Guido is not an epidemiologist, however a virus that is “raging out of control” surely meets many of the criteria.

The latest update from Public Health England reveals that a coronavirus variant with a “double mutation” has been detected in the UK after having first emerged in India. A total of 77 cases of the “Indian variant”, known as B.1.617, have been found across the country up to this Wednesday (14th April). The strain is of particular concern because it features two mutations in the spike protein combined in the same virus, prompting fears it may be more infectious or less susceptible to vaccines. It has been suggested that the two mutations may increase its ability to evade the body’s immune responses – and that may also be able to infect the body more easily. Downing Street’s nightmare scenario…

Professor Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, says the discovery could be cause for significant concern:

“These two escape mutations working together could be a lot more problematic than the South African and Brazilian variants who have only got one escape mutation. It might be even less controlled by vaccine than the Brazilian and South African variants.”

The PM and an entourage of Downing Street and Foreign Office officials are scheduled to head off to New Delhi in ten days. That is looking a little reckless this morning, a dose of “Delhi Belly” would be the least of their health worries…

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