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Shock news Top virologist says new strain of Covid already "likely" spreading through Northern Ireland

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Dr Connor Bamford, research fellow and virologist at Queen's University Belfast

Dr Connor Bamford, research fellow and virologist at Queen's University Belfast

Dr Connor Bamford, research fellow and virologist at Queen's University Belfast

One of Ulster's top virologists has said the mutated version of coronavirus which has been rapidly spreading in southern England is "likely" spreading throughout Northern Ireland.

However, Dr Connor Bamford, of Queen's University Belfast, says we must maintain our aggressive approach when it comes to fighting the disease.

The research fellow in virology also said that just one dose of the vaccine, which is administered in the form of two separate vaccinations, will be enough for the recipient to benefit from at least some form of protection from Covid-19.

Speaking to SundayWorld.com, Dr Bamford said: “Everyone in Northern Ireland and across the UK is really good at keeping an eye on the virus, this new mutation and how the virus is evolving.

“We probably already have this new variant of coronavirus in Northern Ireland. In fact it's very, very likely. There have been four suspected cases in the last few days and they will probably be confirmed soon.

“We don't really know how, if at all, this is going to change the virus. The fear is that this is actually a bit more transmissible and infectious and that might make things a bit more difficult, but I think the important thing to remember is that it really doesn't change how we are fighting it.”

He added: “All of the things we're doing at the moment should work against it. Things like distancing, wearing a mask and the vaccines will all work but the new mutation could just make the battle slightly harder.”

Dr Bamford added that many more people in Northern Ireland must be vaccinated in order for the winds of change in the battle against the virus to be felt.

“A lot of people as we know have already been vaccinated in Northern Ireland and at least with one dose of this vaccine they should be protected in the short term.

"On a personal level, for those people, it's a really big deal. However, the people who have been vaccinated so far are still a very small proportion of the people we need to be vaccinated.

“We know the older you are, and the more underlying health problems you have, the more at risk you are to ending up in hospital, so we need to vaccinate as many of those people as possible.

“In the next couple of months we will definitely see that. Everyone who gets that vaccine will see a tremendous benefit from it.”

Speaking of the efficacy of the vaccine, Dr Bamford said it will be weeks into 2021 before we really see whether the vaccine simply alleviates illness associated with coronavirus or whether it will also protect people from becoming infected in the longer term.

“At the moment we don't really know how good these vaccines are. We don't know whether they'll stop you getting really sick or whether they will stop you becoming infected and spreading the virus.

“If they just stop you from getting sick, then if we just vaccinate all of the at risk people, then they will see quite a big benefit.

“However, there is still going to be quite a lot of virus out there and people who are less at risk still might end up a bit sick.

“If the vaccine actually turns out to stop you from spreading it and we give it to the people who we think are spreading it the most, like the younger generations, then we will see that herd immunity effect where we will see transmission rates going down.

“So at the moment we don't really know, were just trying to focus on what we do know. What we know is that the vaccine stops people getting sick, so let's vaccinate the people who are most at risk of getting sick.”

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