Scientists claim to have discovered a new COVID-19 variant as infections spread throughout Russia. They've dubbed it the "Moscow" strain, and they're looking into whether it's resistant to current vaccines.
Infections of the fatal virus have increased in Russia, prompting the installation of additional restrictions in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. On Sunday, health officials recorded more than 14,700 COVID-19 cases, the highest number in a single day since February.
'Moscow' strain may not be resistant to COVID-19 vaccines, experts say
Experts believe the new strain is to blame for the rise in infections. "Now we are watching the situation in Moscow, and most crucially, Moscow may still have its strains," said Denis Logunov, a director at the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, Daily Express reported.
The Russian government has acted rapidly to contain the outbreak. The mayor of Moscow, Sergey Sobyanin, has declared a "non-working week" from June 15 to 19 to reduce the rapid spike in infections.
In the capital city, field hospitals meant to treat COVID-19 patients will reopen. Authorities in Saint Petersburg, which will host Euro 2020 football events, said on Monday that they are tightening anti-coronavirus measures.
Food courts and children's play areas in shopping stores in Russia's second city will be closed beginning Thursday, and food will not be offered in Euro-2020 fan zones. The delayed vaccination distribution in Russia has hampered efforts to contain the pandemic. Sputnik V, a COVID vaccine produced by the Gamaleya Research Institute, is available in Russia.
Gamaleya Institute head Alexander Gintsburg believes the strain is not resistant to the COVID-19 vaccine. However, he also said that research results are still needed.
Coronavirus mutated in thousands of variants
Per Daily Mail, COVID-19 strains are continually changing to improve their ability to spread. Since the pandemic began, several distinct COVID-19 variants have evolved, including the Kent "Alpha" type, which rapidly became the world's dominant strain.
In September, scientists from the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium (COG-UK) in the United Kingdom discovered the B.1.1.7 variant of coronavirus in the English county of Kent. It took nearly three months to find that the variant was 70% more transmissible than previous forms, and much longer to find that it was also considerably deadlier.
Since its discovery in 2019, the coronavirus has undergone thousands of mutations, although the majority have little effect on human health. However, B.1.1.7 caused a surge of cases that filled Britain's hospitals, pushing the country's death toll beyond 125,000, and prompted dozens of nations to impose travel bans.
The "Beta" variant from South Africa is considered to be somewhat resistant to vaccines but has reduced transmissibility. It has become prevalent in the UK and other countries. According to scientists, the Indian "Delta" strain has taken control in the UK and thwarted lockdown easing attempts since it is 60% more transmissible than the Kent form.
The vaccinations, however, are considered to be equally effective against the strain after two doses, with two different Public Health England studies indicating that getting both jabs is just as effective in causing fatalities and hospitalizations for the variant as it is for the Kent one.
Two vaccines have been discovered to provide effective protection against the Delta variant, which doubles the risk of hospitalization. In the United Kingdom, the Delta variant of COVID-19 is presently the most common.
In research conducted in Scotland, 7,723 and 134 of the 19,543 community cases and 377 hospital admissions were confirmed to be infected with Delta. People with underlying conditions, like those with other variants, were more likely to be admitted to the hospital, according to the research.
While hospitalizations have risen, they have not soared at the same rate as they did at the end of September last year, when the Kent variant first appeared. Researchers discovered that while vaccinations reduced the chance of being admitted to the hospital, substantial protective benefits against the Delta variant did not appear until at least 28 days following the first COVID-19 vaccine dose, The Sun reported.