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U.K. discovers new strain of coronavirus, considered 70 percent more contagious

Updated: Dec. 20, 2020 at 10:12 AM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The Netherlands, Italy and several other countries are banning all passenger flights arriving from the United Kingdom.

The Dutch government says it made the decision following news that a new strain of the coronavirus appears to be infecting people in London.

The ban will stay in effect until the new year to minimize the risk of spreading a newly discovered strain of the virus further.

Part of the U.K. will go back into a “Tier 4″ lockdown during Christmas after the new strain was proven to spread quicker than previous strains.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson broke the news Saturday that London and Southeast England will go into restrictions Sunday.

Johnson outlined that in areas under tier 4, there will be no household mixing over Christmas.

“It is with a very heavy heart, I must tell you we cannot continue with Christmas as planned,” said Johnson Saturday evening. “There’s no evidence that it causes more severe illness or higher mortality, but it does appear to be passed on significantly more easily. And although there’s considerable uncertainty, it may be up to 70% more transmissible than the original version of the disease.”

So far, there’s been no data suggesting the new strain has made it’s way to the U.S., but local health educator Dr. Eric Griggs says health leaders won’t be waiting for that to happen before they act.

“We’re looking for trends,” Griggs said. “The virus in the U.K is apparently doing what viruses do. Over the course time, there’s selective advantage for the virus to become more infectious. Remember the virus wants to spread to as many organisms, or in this case people, as possible.”

The CDC also urging all Americans not to travel for the holidays and only to celebrate with the family members in their household.

Griggs says while the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are now being distributed around the country, it’s too early to tell what new strains of COVID-19 would mean for the future.

“I mean we have annual vaccines for other viruses so we will have to see, but just like the flu every year we will hopefully get to a point where we can predict the strain,” Griggs said.

“Now that we have a very efficient process for how to manufacture a vaccine, we can stay ahead of things and protect as many people as possible.”

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