About four percent of those infected carry a mutated virus – Denmark shows how we can avert an explosion


About four percent of those infected carry a mutated virus – Denmark shows how we can avert an explosion

Only 144 infections with the mutated coronavirus are still known. There is fear of an explosive spread like in Great Britain. Denmark controls the mutation more precisely than other countries.

The vaccine from Pfizer-Biontech also works the English version of Sars-CoV-2.

Jessica Hill / AP

The fear of the mutated English corona virus remains great. According to the President of the Covid-19 Task Force Martin Ackermann, between two and five percent of the sequenced coronaviruses in Switzerland currently belong to this variant B.1.1.7, which is around 50 to 70 percent more contagious.

To date, 120 cases have been definitely identified as mutants, 114 of which can be assigned to the English variant and six to the South African variant. Allocation was not yet possible in 34 cases.

However, new cases of mutations are constantly being discovered, just like in Ticino. The number of infected people cannot be precisely determined. Based on the random samples in different regions of Switzerland, it is estimated that around four percent of those infected currently wear the English variant.

Steep curve like in England and Denmark

That sounds like little at the moment. Ackermann is concerned because he compared the curves of the spread of variant B.1.1.7 in Switzerland with those in Great Britain and Denmark.

This shows that this curve is roughly the same steepness in all three countries, although in Switzerland only recently and at a much lower level than in the British Isles. It can be seen that the number of infections with the mutated virus is doubling every week.

Vaccinations not yet taken into account

Ackermann’s forecast shows a decline in new infections by the end of January, but an increase in February because the more contagious variant spreads quickly if nothing is done about it. In this prognosis, which shows an explosion, the effect of the vaccinations is not taken into account, nor are the measures just decided. This could prevent English conditions from arising in Switzerland. “We are not at the mercy of defenses,” says the head of the Covid 19 task force Martin Ackermann, and continues:

“The faster we vaccinate, the better we can hold back the mutated virus.”

However, it is crucial to reduce the total number of new infections, regardless of the variant.

Martin Ackermann, President of the Federal Covid-19 Task Force.

Martin Ackermann, President of the Federal Covid-19 Task Force.

Peter Schneider / KEYSTONE

New strains of Sars-CoV-2 are constantly developing. According to Ackermann, it is not easy to determine how dangerous these are. Those variants that have an increased transmission rate are critical. These include the English and South African variants. A Japanese and Brazilian mutation were also discovered about which even less is known than about the English one.

A higher viral load could be the reason

With variant B.1.1.7, it cannot be said exactly why it is more contagious than the conventional strain of Sars-CoV-2. Virus researcher Richard Neher from the University of Basel has suspected that the amount of virus is higher in the infected and that this higher viral load makes these people more contagious. “The viral load in the mutated virus is currently being closely examined. The answer to this is still open, ”says Martin Ackermann. So you are still groping in the dark. And so it is not clear whether you could specifically protect yourself from it.

Therefore, the same rules apply to the mutated variants. Keep your distance, ventilate, wear masks. In Germany, more and more people wear the FFP2 professional protective masks. “I’m not sure whether this will provide increased protection,” says Patrick Mathys from the BAG. In addition, many people who are already reluctant to wear a breathing mask could have a lot more trouble with a far more uncomfortable FFP2 mask. You have to behave towards the mutated coronavirus as you would towards the normal variant.

Denmark knows the spread of the mutant very well

Compared to many other countries, the Danish authorities know the spread of the British variant relatively well. Large sequencing capacities make it possible to analyze around 5000 positive corona samples per week for B.1.1.7, with 3.6 percent yielding a hit. So far, 208 carriers of the mutation have been found; However, the authorities assume that there are around eight times more infected people.

A newly developed PCR test now gives an even better overview. With immediate effect, all positive tests, around 80,000 per day, are subjected to a second analysis: after 6 to 12 hours it is clear whether the sample contains a special mutation – the British, South African or mink mutation. These cases are given priority in contact tracing, while gene sequencing takes a few days. This then determines whether it is the British variant.

Comprehensive lockdown in Denmark due to B.1.1.7

Due to the rapid increase in the B.1.1.7 numbers, the Danish government fears that in February the situation could become uncontrollable. As a precaution, in order to slow down the development, it decided on a comprehensive lockdown at the beginning of January and closed all schools.

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