More infectious coronavirus mutation now most common strain: Researchers

A new, more infectious mutation of coronavirus is now the most common strain, researchers have warned. (File/AFP)
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Updated 04 July 2020

More infectious coronavirus mutation now most common strain: Researchers

  • The news of a more infectious dominant strain comes as total infections have passed 11 million and over half a million people have lost their lives
  • Many countries fear that a “second wave” of infections could be approaching as they reopen their economies

LONDON: A new, more infectious mutation of coronavirus is now the most common strain, researchers have warned. 
Researchers from the UK’s University of Sheffield, Duke University and Los Alamos National Laboratory — both in the US — have warned that COVID-19 has improved its ability to enter and infect human cells since it was first discovered last year.
The new variant has a small but effective change to the “spike” protein protruding from its surface, which researchers believe allows it to infect humans more easily.
“Data provided by our team in Sheffield suggested that the new strain was associated with higher viral loads in the upper respiratory tract of patients with COVID-19, meaning the virus’s ability to infect people could be increased,” said Dr. Thushan de Silva, senior clinical lecturer in infectious diseases at the University of Sheffield.
He added, however, that while the new variant may increase the likelihood of infection, it does not appear to make the virus more deadly or its symptoms more severe.
Scientists used information from a collaborative database created in Germany to make the discovery.
The news of a more infectious dominant strain comes as total infections have passed 11 million and over half a million people have lost their lives.
Many countries fear that a “second wave” of infections could be approaching as they reopen their economies and try to mitigate some of the financial damage caused by the pandemic’s disruptions.


Sri Lanka casts its vote under shadow of virus

Updated 06 August 2020

Sri Lanka casts its vote under shadow of virus

  • Security crackdown as more than 7,400 candidates contest twice-delayed election

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka went to the polls on Wednesday to elect 225 members to its 9th Parliament amid tight security and health precautions to limit the coronavirus pandemic.

The polls were twice-delayed after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa dissolved the assembly in March and postponed polls scheduled for April due to the outbreak, before finally deciding on Aug. 5 as the date for general elections.

Mahinda Deshapriya, chairman of the Sri Lanka Elections Commission (EC), said police had been given “shooting orders” in case of security breaches and strict health protocols had been introduced at polling booths.

Deshapriya said that all 12,985 polling booths had been sanitized as a preventive measure.

The elections were completed at an estimated cost of $48.6 million, up from the $37.8 million spent during last year’s presidential polls.

Speaking to Arab News on Wednesday, Samuel Ratnajeevan Hoole, an EC member, said that a 60 percent turnout by noon was a “good sign of voters’ response.”

“Our voters are matured and informed now, and they will choose whom they want irrespective of any racial or religious differences,” he said, adding that there were fewer poll-related complaints this year compared with previous elections.

There were 46 registered political parties and 313 independent groups vying for the 225-seat parliament, with a total of 7,452 candidates in the fray – 3,652 fielded by 46 parties and 3,800 representing 313 independent groups.

According to the EC, nearly 16,263,885 registered voters could make their choice at the elections.

At this election, 196 members are to be elected at the district level under the proportional representation system to the 225-member parliament, while 29 members will be chosen from the National List. Under the 1978 constitution, the members are elected to the 9th Parliament.

Dr. Ruwan Wijemuni, general director of health services in Colombo, credited the voters for “lending their cooperation in full to make it a grand success.” At the same time, police spokesman Jaliya Senaratne said there were no reports of violence from any part of the island.

“There were minor scuffles on the eve of the polls in some parts of the island which were settled then and there,” he added.

Ismathul Rahman, 57, from the coastal town of Negombo, told Arab News that this year people were “keen to elect the right people” for their respective electorate as it was “crucial for the country’s economy.”

“It was a peaceful poll without any remarkable incidents of violence. The EC has managed the show well,” said Khalid Farook, 70, former president of the All-Ceylon Young Men’s Muslim Association, Wednesday.