The coronavirus is mutating and becoming even more contagious. A new coronavirus strain discovered in the UK is believed to be 70% more transmissible than other virus strains circulating there.
A number of EU countries moved over the weekend to halt travel from the UK after it reported a sharp rise in coronavirus cases.
The new variant in the UK is called B.1.1.7.
Two aspects of this coronavirus strain concerns scientists. One is the unprecedented number of mutations it carries. The other is the speed with which it is pushing out other strains of the virus in south-east England.
The Covid Genomics Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute said 23 letters in the viral genetic code had changed. Some 17 of these might affect the behavior of the virus.
The changes help it to enter and reproduce within human cells.
Computer modeling suggests that it is 70% more transmissible than other virus strains circulating in the UK. This makes the pandemic far harder to control without stringent lockdown measures.
We haven’t seen anything like this in the pandemic. But, given the large number of people infected, it is not surprising the virus is mutating so quickly.
There is a small plus. There is no evidence so far that the mutations make coronavirus more serious in those infected.
Scientists say the mutations will not hurt the effectiveness of existing Covid-19 vaccines.
A new coronavirus strain was also reported in South Africa, called 501.V2.
It has become the dominant variant in South Africa. Between 80% and 90% of the virus in the country is the 501.V2 mutant.
The Big News
Who’s Next for the Vaccine?
A panel advising the CDC decided Sunday on what high-risk group would next receive Covid vaccines. The panel struck a compromise. It said the next groups will be people age 75 and older, along with about 30 million “frontline essential workers.” These are emergency responders, teachers and grocery store employees.
Employers Can Mandate Vaccines
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said companies can bar employees from the workplace if they are not vaccinated. Businesses are uniquely positioned to help public health. They will likely require large numbers of Americans who otherwise would not receive a vaccination to do so because their employment depends on it.
Congress Makes a Deal
Congress finally struck a $900 billion Covid relief compromise. This came after months of warnings from economists, corporate leaders and the Fed that the U.S. economy needed additional help. Among the highlights are $600 in direct payments to millions of Americans, as well as $300 a week in supplemental federal unemployment benefits for 11 weeks.
Tesla, the Pandemic and China
Tesla has boasted several times that it is inching closer to the 500,000 vehicle delivery goal this year, despite the pandemic. And it is getting close, thanks to China. The latest data from the China Passenger Car Association shows Tesla sold 113,655 Model 3 sedans in China from January to November. This makes it China’s bestselling new-energy vehicle. These include electric, plug-in hybrid and fuel-cell cars.
Biden to Receive Vaccine
President-elect Joe Biden and the incoming first lady, Jill Biden, will receive the virus vaccine on live television today. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband will probably receive it after Christmas. All of them will receive the usual follow-up doses later.
The Coronavirus Numbers
Here are the numbers from Monday at 8 a.m. ET from Johns Hopkins University:
- 76,928,774 Infected Worldwide
- 1,695,307 Deaths
- 17,848,395 Infected in the U.S.
- 317,684 Deaths in the U.S.
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It’s not a good start to Christmas week thanks to the emergence of the new, highly-contagious coronavirus strain.
Tighter lockdowns in Europe unnerved investors. European stocks saw heavy selling in cyclical names and a broad 1%-2% decline for the main markets. U.S. futures were indicated down about 1.5%.
The rotation trade – at least temporarily – is being unwound. Precious metals and bonds prices are rising sharply, as are previous pandemic winners, such as Zoom.
Today is the kind of near-term volatility we can expect until the full force of vaccines is felt.
A lot of hope has already been priced in with the vaccine-inspired November rally.
Unfortunately, tougher restrictions may be in place until the spring. So, corrections like today’s are to be expected.
The vaccine “cavalry” may be coming. But we are still under attack by this very contagious virus.
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Yours in Health & Wealth,