For weeks, the United Kingdom has been scrambling to contain the quick spread of additional mutations of the coronavirus—one that originated locally and another from South Africa.
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock was quoted as saying that the country had to “come down hard” on the South African variant after more than a hundred cases were recently reported. Eleven of those cases had no links to international travelers.
To limit further spread of the more contagious variant, the United Kingdom has launched an enhanced testing program for roughly eighty thousand people who are residing in areas where cases have been previously identified. Residents there have been told to limit the time they spend outside their homes.
The United Kingdom’s official death toll from the yearlong coronavirus pandemic recently surpassed the grim figure of one hundred thousand, the fifth highest in the world, according to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The World Health Organization has called on neighboring European countries to intensify coronavirus measures as the region deals with a new and more contagious variant that was first detected in southeast England in September 2020.
That mutant virus quickly spread to London and is now responsible for the majority of new infections in the country, putting even more pressure on the health-care system that already has been pushed to the brink. Currently, about thirty-two thousand patients are receiving care in hospitals, compared to roughly eighteen thousand during the pandemic’s first peak in April.
Previous reports have contended that the mutant virus is between 30 percent and 70 percent more transmissible but does not seem to be more lethal. However, a recent UK report stated that there is “a realistic possibility” that the new variant, also known as B.1.1.7, could eventually produce higher death rates than other strains.
Currently, the United Kingdom is mired in a third lockdown that has closed all nonessential shops, schools, and universities for at least six weeks. Many citizens, however, have grown frustrated with the new restrictions that require people to stay home except for essential reasons, such as grocery shopping.
A new study has placed a dollar figure on the loss of income British children will eventually face because of the lengthy school closures. Conducted by the British research body the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), it said that the ongoing pandemic will cost students an average of 40,000 pounds ($55,000) in lost earnings during their careers.
That amount was based on the children missing half a year of face-to-face schooling, which could potentially cost them 4 percent of their lifetime earnings—based on current estimates of educational returns across the world’s high-income countries.
Based on an individual earning 1 million pounds over their lifetime, the report revealed that this equated to a total of 350 billion pounds in lost lifetime income across the nearly nine million schoolchildren in the United Kingdom.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.