HK urged to retest travelers for mutant virus - Asia Times
Hong Kong has been urged to retest previously arrived British travelers and analyze the genome sequences of any coronavirus infection to see whether the UK mutation has entered the territory. Of 45 imported cases from the UK since early November, 85% showed no symptoms. This was a higher percentage than usual, said Ho Pak-leung, a microbiologist of the University of Hong Kong.The government should do the gene sequencing and find out if any carried the mutated coronavirus from the UK, Ho said.
The UK mutation has 10 amino acids different from the original virus in Wuhan. Some of these new amino acids increase the infectivity of the mutated virus. The mutated virus contained new spike proteins that could have lowered the accuracy of the current mRNA tests and resulted in some false negative results, he said. Several thousand students who had returned to Hong Kong from the UK could have carried the mutated virus to the territory, said Leung Chi-chiu, chairman of the Medical Association’s advisory committee on communicable diseases. The government should consider testing these people again to stop possible transmission.
The mutated virus was being spread rapidly not only in Britain but also in many other countries, he said. As it had a higher infectivity, it would probably replace the original one to become dominant variant in most places, he said.Leung said it was not safe enough to require the previously arrived UK travelers to stay at home for seven more days. He said these travelers should be sent to a designated hotel for quarantine.
Infectious disease specialist Joseph Tsang said the government should consider banning more flights from Europe as infection numbers there spike. The strain that emerged in the UK in September could have spread to other European countries before they suspended air travel with the UK, Tsang said.