Strict COVID safety measures must continue to prevent more strains from emerging, scientists warn

NORWICH, United Kingdom — We all want the coronavirus pandemic to end sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, a new study concludes that strict safety measures are still necessary for the time being. Why? researchers say such restrictions are the only way to reduce the evolution and spread of new COVID-19 strains.

Scientists from the University of East Anglia, Earlham Institute, and the University of Minnesota all collaborated on this project. They say that while they understand why various governments all over the world continue to wrestle with establishing a balance between protecting against the virus and keeping their economies afloat, strict restrictions right now are the best and perhaps only way to stop the spread of new coronavirus variants.

Effective vaccines are finally available and have already been given to millions of people worldwide. However, newly detected COVID strains in England, Brazil, and South Africa represent a potential threat to vaccine effectiveness.

“Continuing public health efforts to encourage vaccination as well as continued use of proper personal protective equipment (PPE), such as proper masking and maintaining safe social interactions, is of utmost importance,” researchers say in a university release. “Humanity is faced with a new reality. The faster we adapt, the better our long-term prospects. We must stop the evolution and spread of more virulent virus strains now. We, therefore, support public health policies with strict control measures in order to protect our public health system, our individual wellbeing, and our future.”

Financial assistance is making the pandemic worse?

After analyzing how the pandemic has played out so far, and all the factors that have contributed to that sequence of events, researchers claim that many economic stimulus packages implemented by countries have actually “fueled the rate of person-to-person transmission.”

Consequently, the population number of the virus grew to a much higher base this winter.

“By not absolutely minimizing the R number when we had the chance, we extended the pathogen transmission chains, providing more opportunity for it to mutate and evolve into more virulent variants,” researchers add.

Will new COVID strains create a danger for pets?

Study authors also say that a higher R value, or increased virulence, can cause the coronavirus to mutate and develop longer contagious properties. In other words, newly evolved strains will be infectious for longer periods of time. Moreover, viral evolution within animals like cats and minks, followed by eventual transmission and crossover to humans, represents a long-term public health risk. With this in mind, researchers conclude it may be a good idea to start vaccinating animals as well as humans.

“Vaccination against a viral pathogen with such high prevalence globally is without precedent and we, therefore, have found ourselves in unchartered waters. However, what we can be certain about is that, as long as the vaccine stays effective, a higher uptake of the vaccines will: reduce the number of COVID-19-related deaths, stem the spread of the transmissible strain of the virus, and reduce risk of the evolution of other, even more, virulent strains in the future,” the international team says.

“Furthermore, it is not unthinkable that vaccination of some domesticated animal species might also be necessary to curb the spread of the infection.”

The study is published in Virulence.

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