By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
First there was the regular COVID-19 virus that spread pretty rapidly around the world. Then there was the second version of it that spread rapidly around Great Britain and is appearing throughout the US too. And now there is the third variant 501.V2.
It is getting hard to keep up.
The variant was first detected in South Africa, more specifically in the Nelson Mandela Bay metropolitan area of its Eastern Cape province. It was reported by the country’s health department on December 18th, 2020.
Apparently, version three spreads more rapidly than even version one and version two. This one spreads even more among young people with no underlying health conditions, and by comparison with other variants it is more powerful in such cases.
According to scientists, version three has a number of mutations (so far three that have been identified) that allows it to attach even more easily to human cells.
It has also been identified in the United Kingdom. Version three has also been spreading to other areas. On December 23rd, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that two people who had travelled from South Africa to the UK were infected with 501.V2. On December 28th, the variant had been detected in two individuals in Switzerland and in one individual in Finland. On December 29th, the strain had been detected in a visitor from South Africa to Japan, and in one overseas traveller in Queensland, Australia. On 30 December, the variant has been detected in Zambia. On December 31st, it has also been detected in France, in a passenger returning from South Africa. On 2 January 2021, the first case of this variant has been detected in South Korea.
VACCINES MAY NOT WORK OR NOT DO WELL
On January 4th, 2021, Oxford immunologist, Sir John Bell, expressed his belief that there was “a big question mark” over the new South African variant’s potential resistance to COVID-19 vaccines. The same day, professor of vaccinology Shabir Madhi, commented to CBS News that “it’s not a given” that the new 501.V2 variant would be able to evade the vaccines, but that it should be considered that they “might not have the full efficacy.”
Because of the uptick in Eretz Yisroel, Gedolim have stated that, if possible, people should try to daven outdoors again. Previous studies have shown that outdoor gatherings reduce the spread of COVID by 19 to 1 over indoor gatherings. It could be that version three is more prevalent in Eretz Yisroel now than here in New York, and that it may be premature to suggest the outdoor minyanim for New York, but this may change at any time.
Regardless, we should be super vigilant in keeping to the guidelines of stopping the spread.
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