A fast-spreading new strain of the coronavirus which has emerged in the UK and its potential implications for public health have begun to be examined, according to a report by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). 

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Dr. Ismail Balik, head of the infectious diseases department at Ankara University, said the coronavirus mutated many times during the year, adding this mutation can only be fully clarified through scientific investigation.

Noting that the ECDC’s report on the new strain was published last night, Balik said “this mutant variant has been named SARS-CoV-2 VUI 202012/01 [Variant Under Investigation, year 2020, month 12, variant 01] for now.”

Balik said the report points out the importance of a comprehensive examination of the new strain.

“An examination is being made regarding the new variant of the coronavirus, which mutates and spreads faster,” he said, adding the report tries to answer a number of questions, including which countries the virus is spreading in, whether the virus can be detected by PCR tests on the market and affected by antibody or plasma treatments and identifying possible vaccination failure and breakthrough infections due to the mutation, he said.

He also pointed out that the report says that the new strain has been seen in other countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Australia.

‘Multiple spike protein mutations’ detected in virus

Balik also said the report indicates that this mutation is thought to have affected the growth of the recent outbreak in the UK.

Stating that “multiple spike protein mutations” were detected in the virus, which in the new type spreads faster, Balik said “Multiple spike protein mutations are types of mutation at many points in the outer spine that allows the virus to enter the human cell.

Previously seen mutations were generally at one point. Current information shows that this new mutant is not much different from the old virus. It only increased transmissibility of the virus.”

Suspension of flights

In a statement on Twitter, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said it was reported that with the mutation of the virus, its transmissibility has increased in the UK.

Koca announced late Sunday that flights from the UK, Denmark, the Netherlands and South Africa were suspended over the emergence of the new strain of the coronavirus.

He also said that as part of the measures, all passengers who are on flights that are still en route will be tested and quarantine rules will be applied when they arrive.

“Measures are being carried out in full coordination,” he added.

The move came as several European countries including France, Germany, Italy and Austria announced a suspension of flights from the UK amid news of the strain.

The World Health Organization also asked European countries to redouble their health measures amid the new variant.