Cryptocurrencies are taking the developing world by storm, with more users now in Nigeria than in the US – 2 experts lay out how bitcoin is changing emerging-market finance

Globe
Globe

  • Insider spoke to James Butterfill from CoinShares and Marius Reitz from Luno in Africa about bitcoin in the developing world.
  • El Salvador recently made bitcoin legal tender and other governments may follow suit.
  • Cryptocurrencies can bring finance to the “unbanked” and help counter volatile domestic currencies, the two experts said.
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell.

Cryptocurrencies have made it into the mainstream this year, with crypto-backed bank cards, investment products and traders, both big and small, have got in on the action, driving the likes of bitcoin, ether and dogecoin to record highs.

In the developing world, crypto adoption is growing at breakneck speed. Young, fast-growing populations that lack access to traditional finance, but have smartphones, from Brazil to Botswana, are driving the surge in the use of cryptocurrencies.

James Butterfill, who is an investment strategist at CoinShares, the largest crypto exchange traded product provider in Europe, and Marius Reitz, the general manager in Africa of crypto exchange Luno discussed the social benefits of bitcoin for the developing world.

“In third-world countries, we are seeing the take-up of bitcoin. If you look at bitcoin volume growth, it’s massive,” Butterfill told Insider.

For example, according to a Statista survey of global consumers in February, nearly one in three of those polled in Nigeria said they owned, or used, cryptocurrencies, versus just 6 out of every 100 in the United States, in 2020.

El Salvador’s recent decision to make bitcoin legal tender is an example of how developing countries are using crypto. The World Bank recently said it would not work with the country on its cryptocurrency plans because of how volatile it believes these assets are.

The amount of bitcoin that changes hands in emerging economies is exploding. Trading volumes in Brazil have risen 2,247% year-on-year in 2021, while in Venezuela, where political turmoil has created hyperinflation and economic crisis, crypto trading volumes have risen 833% in the last 12 months, according to data provider Kaiko.

In Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, trading volumes have risen 128% year on year, and in Turkey, where inflation and economic decline have hit the lira, they’re up 143%, based on Kaiko’s data.

Bitcoin has been trading between $40,000 and $31,900 over the last month, but has moved between lows of $30,000 and to highs of as much as $63,500 over the course of 2021. Despite its volatility, consumers in developing countries love it.

There are about 1.7 billion people that are considered “unbanked”. However, around 48% of the global population has a smartphone and that percentage, in theory, have access to the internet, and therefore, cryptocurrencies, Butterfill said.

In Latin America, only 30% of the population over the age of 15 have a bank account, according to 2019 data by consultant Mckinsey.

“I think that really is a positive thing that bitcoin’s helping the unbanked be bankable,” Butterfill said.

A closer look at Africa

Crypto use has also grown in Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

“One region that may go unnoticed in the development and usage of cryptocurrencies, is Africa. The continent is one of, if not the most promising, regions for the adoption of cryptocurrencies due to its unique combination of economic and demographic trends,” Luno’s Reitz said.

One of the key factors that is encouraging people in Africa to use cryptocurrency is the cost of transferring money. The World Bank reported in 2020 that sending money to Africa via traditional bank transfer cost an average fee of 8.9% compared to the global average of 6.8%.

Sending money abroad, or even receiving funds from overseas, is littered with additional costs, including exchange rates and this is where crypto is helping fill that gap.

“It’s either really expensive, or really difficult to do. So, with something like bitcoin, you can have an international bank account and it costs you virtually nothing, that’s what’s really powerful about it,” CoinShares’ Butterfill said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Brazil hits 500,000 COVID-19 deaths as the Amazon Gamma variant accelerates virus contagion

Brazil protesters
Demonstrators gather with signs and flags during a protest against President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration on June 19, 2021 in Sao Paulo, Brazil

  • The number of coronavirus-related deaths passed 500,000 in Brazil on Saturday.
  • Only the US, with 600,000+ deaths, surpasses Brazil.
  • Protesters took to the streets of every Brazilian city to protest Bolsonaro’s pandemic response.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The number of coronavirus-related deaths passed 500,000 in Brazil on Saturday, BBC News reported.

Brazil’s COVID-19 death toll is the second highest in the world, only surpassed by the US.

The infection rates are between 80,000 and 100,000 people every day, Sky News reported. But these are just the recorded figures. The real numbers, the media outlet said, could be up to four times higher.

The situation, according to Brazilian public health institute Fiocruz, is now “critical.”

Experts have warned that the outbreak is set to worsen because of a combination of a slow vaccine rollout, the rapid spread of highly transmissible variants, and President Jair Bolsonaro’s resistance to introducing social distancing measures.

Read more: The pandemic isn’t over just because you’re vaccinated

Only 11 percent of Brazilians are fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times World Vaccination Tracker.

Bolsonaro, a vaccine skeptic who previously suggested that shots could turn people into crocodiles or bearded ladies, has faced criticism for the slow rollout.

He initially touted unproven anti-malaria drugs and, according to a senator’s testimony during a Senate inquiry, backed herd immunity over inoculation.

Bolsonaro asked Pfizer on Tuesday to speed up the delivery of vaccines in a bid to speed up the disappointing rollout, Reuters reported.

The outbreak is also being fueled by the rapid spread of highly transmissible variants, BBC News said.

The Gamma variant, first discovered in the Amazon region, is more resistant to the effects of antibody treatment, according to CNN.

Experts are concerned that the variant could significantly increase the rate of infections over the next few months.

“Brazil faces a critical scenario of community transmission… with the possibility of worsening in the coming weeks due to the start of winter,” Fiocruz, the public health institute, said.

On Saturday, thousands of Brazilian’s protested against Bolsonaro and his government’s pandemic response.

Local media reported that protests took place in all 26 Brazilian states as well as the capital Brasilia, Reuters said.

Protesters were angry that Bolsonaro, amid a worsening COVID-19 situation, for downplaying the pandemic, ignoring mask-wearing guidance, and rejecting social distancing measures as job-killers.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Emerging markets could be the next big frontier for crypto. A slew of politicians want to follow El Salvador and adopt bitcoin as legal tender.

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  • Emerging markets are pioneering digital and crypto currency usage, trading and mining.
  • Since El Salvador voted to adopt bitcoin as legal tender, a slew of politicians have said they want to follow suit.
  • Many showed their support through tweets or by adding the symbolic laser eyes to their Twitter pictures.
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell.

Cryptocurrencies can often stir up concern among conservative investors and few are as conservative as central banks, and regulators are definitely skeptical. But this does not appear to be the case in emerging markets.

Politicians, central bankers and regulators across the developed world might be a little wary, but those in the emerging world are pushing the boundaries of crypto adoption, by pioneering how digital tokens are used, traded and mined.

In fact, they could become crypto’s next big frontier, as a slew of politicians from Brazil, and Argentina and even Tonga have publicly stated that they want their countries to follow the example of El Salvador in making cryptocurrencies legal tender.

El Salvador’s Congress approved a law last week that made the small Central American country the first to accept bitcoin as legal tender, giving it equal status to the US dollar in El Salvador.

“Other countries will follow El Salvador’s lead for two main reasons, making bitcoin legal tender will attract Bitcoin entrepreneurs and ease the burden of sending money internationally.” Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA told Insider.

Indeed, since El Salvador’s president Nayib Bukele first announced the bitcoin bill, a slew of other emerging markets politicians have said that their own countries should follow suit.

Paraguayan congressman Carlitos Rejala tweeted “This week we start with an important project to innovate Paraguay in front of the world! The real one to the moon #btc & #paypal”.

Gabriel Silva, a congressman from Panama said his country could not afford to be left behind and a broader adoption of crypto was necessary for the country to attract technological innovation and entrepreneurship.

Brazilian politician Gilson Marques and the Argentinian Francisco Sánchez were among those who added laser eyes, a symbol used by bitcoin bulls, to their public profile pictures.

Central banks around the world are considering launching their own digital currencies that would be centrally managed and regulated – a key difference to existing cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.

The Federal Reserve and European Central Bank are still in the very early stages of looking into a digital currencies, while many emerging-market central banks are making fast progress in the area.

“Their use in small-scale trading and remittance transfers from workers abroad are among the main reasons for the popularity of crypto currencies in EM. Central bank digital currencies (CBDC) could also facilitate getting social transfers to the poor and improve transparency of the large informal economy. These channels could be positive for economic growth in EM.” a recent Bank of America research note said.

The popularity and value of crypto currencies like bitcoin and ether has boomed over the past year. They’re both an asset class in their own right, as well as a means of payment for goods and services. Various sports teams like the Dallas Mavericks or Oakland A’s for example accept cryptocurrencies as payments for tickets or merchandise.

In El Salvador, a whole town was already running on crypto – El Zonte, also known as ‘Bitcoin Beach’. Soon the whole country could now be working in similar ways and, if some politicians get their will, other emerging markets countries could as well.

El Salvador’s decision has however been received cautiously by regulators and politicians in developed markets. Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey said just this week that cryptocurrencies are too volatile to be used as a payment form.

And the World Bank rejected El Salvador’s request to help with the implementation of bitcoin over environmental concerns linked to crypto mining. Further, regulators have shown concern about the use of crypto to fund illicit activities.

Bitcoin is already up by 300% in the last 12 months and, if more countries adopt it, it should stand to gain even more, even though regulators are tightening their scrutiny of the market, analysts said.

“Bitcoin becoming legal tender in other countries should support the bull case for bitcoin,” OANDA’s Moya said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Brazil’s president received a fine in Sao Paulo for violating local coronavirus mask restrictions

Jair Bolsonaro
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro adjusts his protective face mask at a press statement during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Brasilia, Brazil, March 20, 2020. Picture taken March 20, 2020.

  • Brazil’s president was fined in his own country for violating local mask mandates, the AP reported.
  • Jair Bolsonaro must pay $110 for participating in a motorcycle rally in Sao Paulo without a mask.
  • Brazil, with crematoriums continuing to be overwhelmed, has for months struggled to stave off the coronavirus.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Saturday received a $110 fine after failing to wear a mask in Sao Paulo, the Associated Press reported.

Bolsonaro had been riding his motorcycle through the streets of Sao Paulo, where local mask ordinances remain in place. Sao Paulo has required that residents wear masks in public spaces since May 2020.

He and about 12,000 other motorcycle enthusiasts were cheering while maskless, the AP reported. While riding his bike, Bolsonaro shouted at Sao Paulo residents that masks were unnecessary if they were fully vaccinated.

“Whoever is against this proposal is because they don’t believe in science, because if they are vaccinated, there is no way the virus can be transmitted,” Bolsonaro said standing on top of a car.

This is at least the second time Bolsonaro received a fine for violating local mask ordinances. In May, officials in Maranhao fined him for going maskless at a rally.

He and local Brazilian politicians have for months butted heads over the types of restrictions to impose to protect against and stave off the coronavirus in the country.

With more than 486,000 fatalities, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, Brazil has one of the world’s highest COVID-19 death rates. The death rates have been so high that for months crematoriums have struggled to keep up.

New variants of the virus have popped up in different parts of Brazil. Yet Bolsonaro has previously said he would not get vaccinated against the coronavirus. He’s also spouted false information about COVID-19 vaccinations that critics have characterized as fearmongering and potentially dangerous rhetoric.

And while individuals who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus are far less likely to get it then individuals who aren’t, health officials have for months insisted that masks should still be worn. Vaccines can prevent people from getting sick but not necessarily from being infected.

Less than 12% of the Brazilian population has so far been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Read the original article on Business Insider

These countries will get 25 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from the US

Covid Vaccine
COVID-19 vaccine

  • The US will send 25 million vaccine doses to countries in Central and South America, Asia and Africa.
  • “This is just the beginning,” White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said.
  • Shipments will take place over the next several weeks.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The United States will send 25 million excess COVID-19 vaccine doses to countries all over the world, the White House announced Thursday.

Nearly 19 million of the doses will be given through COVAX, the UN-backed global vaccine sharing program that helps vulnerable countries.

In total, 7 million of those doses will be donated to nations in South and Southeast Asia, including India, Nepal, Afghanistan, Philippines, and Vietnam. Another 6 million doses will be shipped across Central and South America, including to Brazil, Honduras, Guatemala, Haiti, and El Salvador. Approximately 5 million doses will be delivered to countries in Africa, coordinated through the African Union.

The remaining 6 million doses will be given directly to allies and countries seeing surges in COVID-19 cases, including Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Egypt, Iraq, and the West Bank and Gaza, the White House said.

“As long as this pandemic is raging anywhere in the world, the American people will still be vulnerable,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. “And the United States is committed to bringing the same urgency to international vaccination efforts that we have demonstrated at home.”

“This is just the beginning,” White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said during a Thursday briefing. The doses will consist of Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, Zients confirmed.

Vaccine shipments will take place over the next several weeks. The US plans to share a total of 80 million excess doses with the rest of the world by the end of June – five times the amount any other country has committed to donating, according to the White House.

“A number of those are even going to go out as soon as today,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a news conference Thursday.

The White House reiterated that the US has secured enough supply to fully vaccinate Americans and the doses that will be shipped come from a surplus in the US stockpile.

The announcement comes ahead of Biden’s meeting in the United Kingdom with the Group of Seven nations next week. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan noted on Thursday that the US plans to work with those countries to help end the pandemic.

“Our goal in sharing our vaccines is in service of ending the pandemic globally,” Sullivan said during a White House coronavirus task force briefing Thursday. “Our overarching aim is to get as many safe and effective vaccines to as many people as fast as possible.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

4 coronavirus variants can make people sicker or spread faster, including the variant first found in India. Here’s what variants are, and why experts are so concerned about them.

people wearing masks coronavirus US
People wearing masks in Del Mar, California.

  • There are four coronavirus variants that experts around the world are particularly worried about.
  • These variants were first identified in South Africa, the UK, Brazil, and India respectively.
  • Others coronavirus variants have concerning features, but it’s not yet clear they’re more dangerous.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Several coronavirus variants have evolved mutations that mean they spread more easily, make people sicker, escape immune responses, evade tests, or render treatments ineffective.

These are called “variants of concern” by the World Health Organization, and there are four that have spread to the US, including the variant first found in India.

There are various other variants that may have troubling features, which experts are looking into. These are called “variants under investigation.”

They differ from the original virus strain in a number of key ways.

Variants of concern

Alpha (B.1.1.7, first found in the UK)

coronavirus hospital UK
A nurse works on a patient in the ICU in London hospital, UK on January 7, 2020.

Alpha was first detected in two people in south-east England. It was reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on December 14.

It has been identified in 136 countries worldwide, including the US, where there are more than 20,000 reported cases, according to the CDC. It became the most common variant in the US on April 7. Tennessee has the highest proportion of Alpha cases of any state, accounting for 82% of sequenced cases.

Alpha is between 30% to 50% better at spreading from person to person than other coronavirus variants, according to UK scientists.

Alpha could be more deadly, but we don’t know for sure

Alpha could be more deadly. The UK government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) reported a model on January 21 that showed someone infected with Alpha is 30% to 40% more likely to die than someone with a different variant.

Community-based studies in England, Scotland and Denmark showed that infection with Alpha in the community causes a higher risk of severe disease requiring hospital treatment and death.

But there is a lot of uncertainty around the numbers. Two studies published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases and the Lancet Public Health on April 13 indicated that Alpha was more infectious, but didn’t cause worse illness in hospitalized patients.

COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca all appear to protect against Alpha.

Beta (B.1.351, first identified in South Africa)

COVID-19, South Africa
Health worker Vuyiseka Mathambo takes a nasal swab from a patient to test for COVID-19 at a Masiphumelele community centre in Cape Town, South Africa on July 23, 2020.

Beta was first detected in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa, in samples dating back to the beginning of October 2020. It was reported to the WHO on December 18.

It has been found in 92 countries, including the US, where there are 453 cases reported across 36 states and jurisdictions according to the CDC

Beta is thought to be 50% more contagious than the original strain, according to South African health officials.

It’s not thought to be more deadly. But there is evidence from South Africa that when hospitals came under pressure because of the variant’s spread, the risk of death increased.

Beta may evade the body’s immune response

The variant may evade the body’s immune response, data suggests. Antibodies work best when they attach snugly to the virus and stop it from entering our cells. Beta has mutations called E484K and K417N at the site where antibodies latch on. In early lab tests, antibodies produced by Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines couldn’t attach as well to Beta, compared to the original coronavirus.

In a real-world Qatari study reported on May 6, Pfizer’s vaccine was 75% effective at preventing infection of varying severity caused by Beta after two doses.

And another real-world study from Israel published on April 10 suggested that Pfizer’s vaccine provided less protection against Beta than the original coronavirus. But it was focused on those who have already tested positive for the virus, not total infection rates, so we can’t draw firm conclusions.

Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine was 64% effective at preventing COVID-19 in trials in South Africa, where 95% infections are caused by Beta, and 72% effective in the US, where Beta accounts for less than 1% of sequenced coronavirus tests.

AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine didn’t prevent mild to moderate disease caused by Beta in a trial, and we don’t yet know if AstraZeneca’s shot still protects against severe illness caused by the variant.

It is unlikely that vaccines will become completely useless against the variant. Existing vaccines could be updated and tailored to a new variant within weeks or months, or you may require a booster shot.

Gamma (P.1, first identified in Brazil)

brazil coronavirus
A COVID-19 patient is rushed into a hospital in Brasilia, Brazil on January 11, 2021.

Gamma was first detected in four people in Japan, who had traveled from Brazil on January 2. It was identified by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases on January 6, and reported to the WHO that weekend.

It has been found in 51 countries worldwide, including the US, where there have been 497 cases in 31 states, according to the CDC

Gamma is twice as contagious as the original coronavirus – it was initially detected in Amazonas, north-west Brazil, on December 4, and by January 21, 91% of people with COVID-19 in the region were infected with P.1, according to the WHO.

Gamma has similar E484K and K417T mutations as B.1.351, which means it can evade antibody responses.

This could be the reason Gamma reinfects people who have already caught coronavirus – a study published April 14 showed that previous coronavirus infection only offered between 54% and 79% of the protection for P.1 than for other virus strains.

Gamma’s mutations could also mean that vaccines work less well.

COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and AstraZeneca probably work against Gamma. Moderna’s hasn’t been tested. Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine was 68% effective in trials in Brazil, where the variant is the most common strain, compared with its 72% efficacy in the US, where Gamma at the time accounted for 0.1% of sequenced coronavirus tests.

Delta (B.1.617.2, first identified in India)

india coronavirus
Mumbai Police personnel are tested for the coronavirus on October 15, 2020.

Delta is more infectious than the original virus – it’s as least as contagious as Alpha, according to UK data.

Delta remains a “variant of interest,” according to the CDC.

Its mutations include:

  • L452R: May make the virus more infectious or it may avoid the antibody response.
  • P681R: May make it more infectious.

Real-world data from the UK found that both AstraZeneca’s and Pfizer’s vaccines were highly effective against symptomatic COVID-19 caused by Delta when two doses were given. We don’t have enough data on how well COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna or Johnson&Johnson protect against Delta.

No studies to date have found that Delta is deadlier than earlier versions of the virus.

Variants of interest

Epsilon (B.1.427/B.1.429, first identified in California)

pfizer covid 19 vaccine distribution
Medical assistant April Massaro gives a first dose of Pfizer BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine to nurse Alice Fallago at Desert Valley Hospital on Thursday, December 17, 2020 in Victorville, California.

Epsilon consists of two slightly different mutated forms of the virus, called B.1.427 and B.1.429. It is also called CAL.20C, using another naming system. It was first found in California in July and has now been detected across the US and elsewhere, including in Australia, Denmark, Mexico, and Taiwan, according to the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID).

Epsilon is estimated to be about 20% more infectious than the original coronavirus. This is likely because of a mutation called L452R mutation, which in early lab studies was shown to help the virus infect cells.

COVID-19 vaccines haven’t yet been tested against this variant specifically. But early lab experiments showed that antibodies produced by previous COVID-19 infections worked only half as well against the variant as they did with the original coronavirus strain.

The CDC considers Epsilon a “variant of concern”, which means the CDC experts consider that there’s enough evidence that its mutations change its behavior. It remains a “variant under investigation” according to the WHO.

Read more:Experts explain why the mRNA tech that revolutionized COVID-19 vaccines could be the answer to incurable diseases, heart attacks, and even snake bites: ‘The possibilities are endless’

Zeta (P.2, first identified in Brazil)

Zeta was first detected in Brazil in April 2020. It’s a “variant of interest” because it has the E484K mutation that may mean it evades antibody responses. Less than 0.1% of sequenced coronavirus tests in the US are Zeta, according to the CDC.

Eta (B.1.525, identified in multiple countries)

covid scientist lab coronavirus testing samples
Scientists work in a lab testing COVID-19 samples at New York City’s health department, April 23, 2020.

Eta was detected in multiple places including the UK, Nigeria and New York in December 2020. It has the E484K mutation that may mean it evades the antibody response. Eta accounts for 0.3% of sequenced coronavirus tests in the US, according to the CDC.

Theta (P.3, first identified in the Philippines)

Theta was first detected in the Philippines in February. Theta has the E484K mutation that may mean it evades the immune response. Theta hasn’t yet been detected in the US.

Iota (B.1.526, first identified in New York)

Iota was detected in New York in November 2020. It’s a “variants of interest” because it has mutations that may mean it can escape antibody responses. B.1.526 accounts for less than 8% of sequenced coronavirus tests in the US, according to the CDC.

Kappa (B.1.617.1, first found in India)

Kappa was first found in India in October 2020. It may have mutations that mean it can evade tests. It accounts for less than 0.1% of sequenced coronavirus cases in the US, according to the CDC.

Human behavior can help stop them spreading

AOC Elbow bump Houston Food Bank February 20201.JPG
Ocasio-Cortez elbow bumps a volunteer at the Houston Food Bank.

The WHO has said that everyone should double down on precautions that stop the spread of variants, such as social distancing, hand-washing, mask wearing, and avoiding crowds.

“Human behavior has a very large effect on transmission – probably much larger than any biological differences in SARS-CoV-2 variants,” Paul Bieniasz, a virologist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, told Insider.

Read the original article on Business Insider

4 coronavirus variants can make people sicker or spread faster, including the variant first found in India. Here’s why experts are so concerned about mutant strains.

people wearing masks coronavirus US
People wearing masks in Del Mar, California.

  • There are four coronavirus variants that experts around the world are particularly worried about.
  • These variants were first identified in South Africa, the UK, Brazil, and India respectively.
  • Others coronavirus variants have concerning features, but it’s not yet clear they’re more dangerous.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Several coronavirus variants have evolved mutations that mean they spread more easily, make people sicker, escape immune responses, evade tests, or render treatments ineffective.

These are called “variants of concern” by the World Health Organization, and there are four that have spread to the US, including the variant first found in India.

There are various other variants that may have troubling features, which experts are looking into. These are called “variants under investigation.”

They differ from the original virus strain in a number of key ways.

Variants of concern

B.1.1.7, first found in the UK

coronavirus hospital UK
A nurse works on a patient in the ICU in London hospital, UK on January 7, 2020.

B.1.1.7 was first detected in two people in south-east England. It was reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on December 14.

It has been identified in 123 countries worldwide, including the US, where there are more than 20,000 reported cases, according to the CDC. It became the most common variant in the US on April 7. Tennessee has the highest proportion of B.1.1.7 cases of any state, accounting for 73% of sequenced cases.

B.1.1.7 is between 30% to 50% better at spreading from person to person than other coronavirus variants, according to UK scientists.

B.1.1.7 could be more deadly, but we don’t know for sure

B.1.1.7 could be more deadly. The UK government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) reported a model on January 21 that showed someone infected with B.1.1.7 is 30% to 40% more likely to die than someone with a different variant.

Community-based studies in England, Scotland and Denmark showed that infection with B.1.1.7 in the community causes a higher risk of severe disease requiring hospital treatment and death.

But there is a lot of uncertainty around the numbers. Two studies published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases and the Lancet Public Health on April 13 indicated that B.1.1.7 was more infectious, but didn’t cause worse illness in hospitalized patients.

COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca all appear to protect against B.1.1.7.

B.1.351, first identified in South Africa

COVID-19, South Africa
Health worker Vuyiseka Mathambo takes a nasal swab from a patient to test for COVID-19 at a Masiphumelele community centre in Cape Town, South Africa on July 23, 2020.

B.1.351 was first detected in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa, in samples dating back to the beginning of October 2020. It was reported to the WHO on December 18.

It has been found in 84 countries, including the US, where there are 453 cases reported across 36 states and jurisdictions according to the CDC

B.1.351 is thought to be 50% more contagious than the original strain, according to South African health officials.

It’s not thought to be more deadly. But there is evidence from South Africa that when hospitals came under pressure because of the variant’s spread, the risk of death increased.

B.1.351 may evade the body’s immune response

The variant may evade the body’s immune response, data suggests. Antibodies work best when they attach snugly to the virus and stop it from entering our cells. The B.1.351 variant has mutations called E484K and K417N at the site where antibodies latch on. In early lab tests, antibodies produced by Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines couldn’t attach as well to B.1.351, compared to the original coronavirus.

In a real-world Qatari study reported on May 6, Pfizer’s vaccine was 75% effective at preventing infection of varying severity caused by the variant first found in South Africa, called B.1.351, after two doses.

And another real-world study from Israel published on April 10 suggested that Pfizer’s vaccine provided less protection against B.1.351 than the original coronavirus. But it was focused on those who have already tested positive for the virus, not total infection rates, so we can’t draw firm conclusions.

Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine was 64% effective at preventing COVID-19 in trials in South Africa, where 95% infections are caused by B.1.351, and 72% effective in the US, where B.1.351 accounts for less than 1% of sequenced coronavirus tests.

AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine didn’t prevent mild to moderate disease caused by B.1.351 in a trial, and we don’t yet know if AstraZeneca’s shot still protects against severe illness caused by the variant.

It is unlikely that vaccines will become completely useless against the variant. Existing vaccines could be updated and tailored to a new variant within weeks or months, or you may require a booster shot.

P.1, first identified in Brazil, which is twice as contagious

brazil coronavirus
A COVID-19 patient is rushed into a hospital in Brasilia, Brazil on January 11, 2021.

The variant found in Brazil was first detected in four people in Japan, who had traveled from Brazil on January 2. It was identified by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases on January 6, and reported to the WHO that weekend.

It has been found in 45 countries worldwide, including the US, where there have been 497 cases in 31 states, according to the CDC

P.1 is twice as contagious as the original coronavirus – it was initially detected in Amazonas, north-west Brazil, on December 4, and by January 21, 91% of people with COVID-19 in the region were infected with P.1, according to the WHO.

P.1 has similar E484K and K417T mutations as B.1.351, which means it can evade antibody responses.

This could be the reason P.1 reinfects people who have already caught coronavirus – a study published April 14 showed that previous coronavirus infection only offered between 54% and 79% of the protection for P.1 than for other virus strains.

P.1’s mutations could also mean that vaccines work less well.

COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and AstraZeneca work against P.1. Moderna’s hasn’t been tested. Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine was 68% effective in trials in Brazil, where the variant is the most common strain, compared with its 72% efficacy in the US, where P.1 at the time accounted for 0.1% of sequenced coronavirus tests.

B.1.617, first identified in India

india coronavirus
Mumbai Police personnel are tested for the coronavirus on October 15, 2020.

The variant first found in India, B.1.617, is in fact three distinct viruses. Collectively, they have spread to more than 17 countries, according to the WHO. All three have been detected in the US, according to GISAID.

The WHO and UK have designated it a “variant of concern” because it’s more infectious than the original virus.

B.1.617 remains a “variant of interest,” according to the CDC.

Its mutations include:

  • L52R: May make the virus more infectious or it may avoid the antibody response.
  • P6814: May make it more infectious.
  • E848Q: May help the virus avoid the antibody response.

No studies to date have found that any of the variants first found in India are deadlier than earlier versions of the virus, or that it can evade vaccines.

Variants under investigation

B.1.427/B.1.429, first identified in California

pfizer covid 19 vaccine distribution
Medical assistant April Massaro gives a first dose of Pfizer BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine to nurse Alice Fallago at Desert Valley Hospital on Thursday, December 17, 2020 in Victorville, California.

The variant first found in California consists of two slightly different mutated forms of the virus, called B.1.427 and B.1.429. It is also called CAL.20C, using another naming system. It was first found in California in July and has now been detected across the US and elsewhere, including in Australia, Denmark, Mexico, and Taiwan, according to the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID).

B.1.427/B1.429 are estimated to be about 20% more infectious than the original coronavirus. This is likely because of a mutation called L452R mutation, which in early lab studies was shown to help the virus infect cells.

COVID-19 vaccines haven’t yet been tested against this variant specifically. But early lab experiments showed that antibodies produced by previous COVID-19 infections worked only half as well against the variant as they did with the original coronavirus strain.

The CDC considers B.1.426/B1.429 a “variant of concern”, which means the CDC experts consider that there’s enough evidence that its mutations change its behavior. It remains a “variant under investigation” according to the WHO.

Read more: COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker: AstraZeneca’s shot proves safe and effective, and is headed to the FDA

B.1.526/ B.1.525, first identified in New York

covid scientist lab coronavirus testing samples
Scientists work in a lab testing COVID-19 samples at New York City’s health department, April 23, 2020.

These two variants were detected in New York in late 2020. They are “variants of interest” because they have mutations that could evade antibody responses. B.1.525 accounts for less than 0.5% of sequenced coronavirus tests in the US, according to the CDC.

B.1.526, first identified in New York

These two variants were detected in New York in late 2020. They are “variants of interest” because they have mutations that may evade antibody responses. B.1.526 accounts for under 9% of sequenced coronavirus tests in the US, according to the CDC.

P.2, first identified in Brazil

P.2 was first detected in Brazil in April 2020. It’s a “variant of interest” because it has the E484K mutation that may mean it evades antibody responses. Less than 0.2% of sequenced coronavirus tests in the US are P.2, according to the CDC.

P.3, first identified in the Philippines

P.3 was first detected in the Philippines in February. P.3 has the E484K mutation that may mean it evades the immune response. P.3 hasn’t yet been detected in the US.

B.1.525, first found in UK and Nigeria

B.1.525 was first found in the UK and Nigeria in December 2020. It has the E484K mutation that may mean it evades the antibody response. Less than 0.5% of sequenced coronavirus tests in the US, according to the CDC.

B.1.617, first found in France

B.1.617 was first found in France in January. It hasn’t been detected in any other countries. It may have mutations that mean it can evade tests.

Human behavior can help stop them spreading

AOC Elbow bump Houston Food Bank February 20201.JPG
Ocasio-Cortez elbow bumps a volunteer at the Houston Food Bank.

The WHO has said that everyone should double down on precautions that stop the spread of variants, such as social distancing, hand-washing, mask wearing, and avoiding crowds.

“Human behavior has a very large effect on transmission – probably much larger than any biological differences in SARS-CoV-2 variants,” Paul Bieniasz, a virologist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, told Insider.

Read the original article on Business Insider

American Airlines made a bet on South America for 2021. Civil unrest and spiking COVID-19 cases are now threatening its success in the region.

American Airlines
An American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER.

  • American Airlines is facing numerous setbacks in South America.
  • Rising COVID-19 cases in Chile, Brazil, and Peru forced the airline to cut flights in April.
  • Civil unrest and protests in Colombia are now further threatening success in the region.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

American Airlines’ expansion strategy in South America is experiencing a seemingly never-ending stream of hurdles.

Tourism-dependent Latin America was among the first regions to welcome US tourists during the coronavirus pandemic, and American was standing ready to fly eager travelers. Earlier in the year, the airline had announced new flights to cities in Chile, Colombia, and Brazil in a bid to attract leisure flyers as it waited for business travel to recover.

But while the continent appeared to be welcoming at first, doing business in South America quickly proved problematic.

Flights to Santiago, Chile, were among the first to be impacted when the country closed its borders for the month of April. American had planned to launch a new non-stop route from New York using one of its largest aircraft, the Boeing 777-200, on May 7.

Chile appeared promising when it opened to Americans in November 2020. But a spike in COVID-19 cases following the country’s summer season prompted the government to once again close its borders to tourists.

The state of emergency in the country planned for the month of April has now been extended through June, according to the US Embassy in Chile. American, as a result, pushed back the launch of its inaugural New York-Santiago flight to July 2; though, Chile may extend its border closure depending on conditions in the country.

Spiking COVID-19 cases were also the reasoning for flight reductions to Brazil and Peru, the airline confirmed to Insider’s Brittany Chang in April. Both countries still allow US citizens to enter despite the rise in cases, according to the US Embassies in Brazil and Peru.

In Colombia, however, American faces a new challenge: civil unrest. Protests have gripped the country with some turning violent and taking the lives of at least 26 people, according to ABC News. The Washington Post Editorial Board is also predicting that Colombia’s levels of unrest could spread to regional countries, like Peru.

American, in response, has issued a travel alert for the Colombian city of Cali, where the protests have been the most extreme, allowing travelers to change their flight to any day between May 4 and May 18.

The protests could discourage future travelers from booking trips to Colombia or encourage flyers with existing bookings to change away from Colombia at a time when American is deploying some of its largest aircraft to the country.

Rebuilding a lost South American network at the wrong time

American’s desire to grow in South American comes as the airline seeks to rebuild following the loss of a partner in LATAM Airlines prior to the pandemic.

Delta Air Lines spent $1.9 billion in 2019 for a 20 percent stake in LATAM, significantly growing its presence in South America. The move saw LATAM drop American and the Oneworld airline alliance to join Delta and the SkyTeam airline alliance, leaving American to rebuild in a historically profitable region.

“Latin America has, for roughly 30 years now, been one of American’s international beachhead,” Henry Harteveldt, travel analyst and cofounder of Atmosphere Research Group, told Insider. “In fact, it’s been American’s most successful region outside of the US.”

With LATAM gone, American was left with Brazil’s GOL Linhas Aéreas, a limited partner in the region. But GOL didn’t have the reach of the larger airlines that were now aligned with American’s competitors.

Delta bought a new partner in LATAM Airlines alongside its existing partner in Aerolíneas Argentinas while United had Avianca and Copa Airlines. To regrow its South American network, American chose to launch new routes from the US with a domestic partner, JetBlue Airways.

American launched its routes to Colombia, Brazil, and Chile in a partnership with JetBlue dubbed the “Northeast Alliance.” For American, the partnership provides access to customers across JetBlue’s network that can connect onto the new routes.

“It’s understandable that American would be eager to start rebuilding its network in Latin America because it is so strategically important to the airline right now,” Harteveldt said.

Ceding Europe to United and Delta, for now

South America isn’t totally lost for American as the airline still operates around 30 daily flights to cities across the continent. Cirium data also shows a steady stream of cargo-only flights operating to Santiago from Miami in 2021, which Harteveldt says helps stem the losses.

But while American focuses on South America, its competitors are locked in on the reopening European continent. United and Delta were both quick to resume flights to European countries open to Americans like Greece and Iceland while also starting new routes to Croatia.

“I think American is looking at this and saying, ‘we’re going to be very careful about which routes we pick and which battles want to fight,'” Harteveldt said, thinking back to 2018 when American launched Iceland flights alongside Icelandair now-defunct Wow Air with flights to Dallas. But the airline hasn’t completely ignored Europe, nor a gradually reopening Middle East.

A new route between New York and Athens, Greece, is scheduled to launch on June 2 and existing routes to Athens from Chicago and Philadelphia will resume in June and August, respectively. The airline also just launched a new route between New York and Tel Aviv, Israel, with plans for another route to Israel from Miami, which may pay off as the Middle Eastern country starts to accept vaccinated tour groups.

American may also be waiting for the European Union to open its doors to US citizens, Harteveldt says, so the airline can fly more passengers on its traditional routes to cities like Paris, France; Madrid, Spain; and Rome, Italy.

But success in South America remains challenging as new and unexpected roadblocks appear that are outside of the airline’s control.

“It’s not American’s fault, for example, that you had a strong surge of virus in a particular country, Harteveldt said. “It’s not American’s fault that travel restrictions are in place when American may have thought that some of these restrictions would have been eased or removed.”

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Taco night is going to get more expensive for Americans this summer as corn prices skyrocket

GettyImages 1062096604
  • Corn tortillas may be difficult to find this summer, as major corn producers struggle to meet demand.
  • Labor shortages and poor weather have decreased corn yields for major producers.
  • China is leading a surge in demand as it seeks to replenish its swine herd.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Taco shells will be in short supply this summer.

Corn tacos will be more difficult to find in grocery stores as demand for corn – a key product in anything from fuel to animal feed, as well as your favorite tacos – paired with supply-chain woes makes the product even more difficult to produce.

Demand for the grain has surged in recent months. Increased interest from China, as well as a combination of poor weather and labor shortages, has made the key crop an increasingly valuable commodity.

Major corn producers in Brazil and Argentina have been facing difficulty finding people to work the fields amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Axios. Major droughts in the countries responsible for 40% of the international corn market have also decimated crop yields, Reuters reported.

At the same time that supplies are down in major corn-producing countries, demand for the product commonly used in animal feed is spiking. China is leading the surge in demand, importing 40% more corn in 2021 than the last 60 years combined, according to an April report from the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates.

The country is attempting to rebuild its swine herd after more than half of the nation’s herd was killed off by an outbreak of African swine fever in 2019, and corn feed is crucial to China’s plans to replenish it.

US farmers could see significant profit from the shortage, but unseasonably cold weather and droughts in the Midwest threatens to further diminish corn production, Axios reports.

Corn prices are at an 8-year high, rising 16% in April alone and 43.7% this year, according to MarketWatch.

Americans should “brace for higher prices” in the coming months on any corn-based products, including tortillas, senior market analyst at MOYA told USA Today.

“Corn, wheat, soybeans and even lumber prices are surging higher, and that should spell trouble in the coming months for the U.S. consumer,” Moya said.

The corn shortage is one of many food and household goods that Americans can expect to see in short supply on grocery shelves in the coming months. From surging gas prices to toilet paper and coffee shortages, the US is facing a supply-chain crisis.

Read the original article on Business Insider

3 coronavirus variants can make people sicker or spread faster – and experts are monitoring others, including one spreading in India

people wearing masks coronavirus US
People wearing masks in Del Mar, California.

  • There are three coronavirus variants that experts around the world are worried about.
  • These include variants first identified in South Africa, the UK, and Brazil.
  • Others variants, like one first found in India, have concerning features, but it’s not yet clear they’re more dangerous.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Several coronavirus variants have evolved mutations that mean they spread more easily, make people sicker, escape immune responses, evade tests, or render treatments ineffective.

These are called “variants of concern” by the World Health Organization, and there are three that have spread to the US.

There are various other variants that may have troubling features, which experts are looking into. These are called “variants under investigation,” and include a variant first identified in India.

They differ from the original virus strain in a number of key ways.

Variants of concern

B.1.1.7, first found in the UK

coronavirus hospital UK
A nurse works on a patient in the ICU in London hospital, UK on January 7, 2020.

B.1.1.7 was first detected in two people in south-east England. It was reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on December 14.

It has been identified in 114 countries worldwide, including the US, where there are more than 20,000 reported cases, according to the CDC. It became the most common variant in the US on April 7. Michigan has the highest proportion of B.1.1.7 cases of any state, accounting for just under 70% of sequenced cases.

B.1.1.7 is between 30% to 50% better at spreading from person to person than other coronavirus variants, according to UK scientists.

B.1.1.7 could be more deadly, but we don’t know for sure

B.1.1.7 could be more deadly. The UK government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) reported a model on January 21 that showed someone infected with B.1.1.7 is 30% to 40% more likely to die than someone with a different variant.

Community-based studies in England, Scotland and Denmark showed that infection with B.1.1.7 in the community causes a higher risk of severe disease requiring hospital treatment and death.

But there is a lot of uncertainty around the numbers. Two studies published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases and the Lancet Public Health on April 13 indicated that B.1.1.7 was more infectious, but didn’t cause worse illness in hospitalized patients.

COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca all appear to protect against B.1.1.7.

B.1.351, first identified in South Africa

COVID-19, South Africa
Health worker Vuyiseka Mathambo takes a nasal swab from a patient to test for COVID-19 at a Masiphumelele community centre in Cape Town, South Africa on July 23, 2020.

B.1.351 was first detected in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa, in samples dating back to the beginning of October 2020. It was reported to the WHO on December 18.

It has been found in 81 countries, including the US, where there are 453 cases reported across 36 states and jurisdictions according to the CDC

B.1.351 is thought to be 50% more contagious than the original strain, according to South African health officials.

It’s not thought to be more deadly. But there is evidence from South Africa that when hospitals came under pressure because of the variant’s spread, the risk of death increased.

B.1.351 may evade the body’s immune response

The variant may evade the body’s immune response, data suggests. Antibodies work best when they attach snugly to the virus and stop it from entering our cells. The B.1.351 variant has mutations called E484K and K417N at the site where antibodies latch on. In early lab tests, antibodies produced by Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines couldn’t attach as well to B.1.351, compared to the original coronavirus.

We don’t know yet whether this impacts the vaccines’ effectiveness in real-life. A real-world study from Israel published on April 10 suggested that Pfizer’s vaccine provided less protection against B.1.351 than the original coronavirus. But it was focused on those who have already tested positive for the virus, not total infection rates, so we can’t draw firm conclusions. Pfizer has published some data suggesting its vaccine may help protect people against this variant.

Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine was 64% effective at preventing COVID-19 in trials in South Africa, where 95% infections are caused by B.1.351, and 72% effective in the US, where B.1.351 accounts for less than 1% of sequenced coronavirus tests.

AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine didn’t prevent mild to moderate disease caused by B.1.351 in a trial, and we don’t yet know if AstraZeneca’s shot still protects against severe illness caused by the variant.

It is unlikely that vaccines will become completely useless against the variant. Existing vaccines could be updated and tailored to a new variant within weeks or months, or you may require a booster shot.

P.1, first identified in Brazil, which is twice as contagious

brazil coronavirus
A COVID-19 patient is rushed into a hospital in Brasilia, Brazil on January 11, 2021.

The variant found in Brazil was first detected in four people in Japan, who had traveled from Brazil on January 2. It was identified by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases on January 6, and reported to the WHO that weekend.

It has been found in 40 countries worldwide, including the US, where there have been 497 cases, according to the CDC

P.1 is twice as contagious as the original coronavirus – it was initially detected in Amazonas, north-west Brazil, on December 4, and by January 21, 91% of people with COVID-19 in the region were infected with P.1, according to the WHO.

P.1 has similar E484K and K417T mutations as B.1.351, which means it can evade antibody responses.

This could be the reason P.1 reinfects people who have already caught coronavirus – a study published April 14 showed that previous coronavirus infection only offered between 54% and 79% of the protection for P.1 than for other virus strains.

P.1’s mutations could also mean that vaccines work less well.

COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and AstraZeneca work against P.1. Moderna’s hasn’t been tested. Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine was 68% effective in trials in Brazil, where the variant is the most common strain, compared with its 72% efficacy in the US, where P.1 at the time accounted for 0.1% of sequenced coronavirus tests.

Variants under investigation

B.1.427/B.1.429, first identified in California

pfizer covid 19 vaccine distribution
Medical assistant April Massaro gives a first dose of Pfizer BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine to nurse Alice Fallago at Desert Valley Hospital on Thursday, December 17, 2020 in Victorville, California.

The variant first found in California consists of two slightly different mutated forms of the virus, called B.1.427 and B.1.429. It is also called CAL.20C, using another naming system. It was first found in California in July and has now been detected across the US and elsewhere, including in Australia, Denmark, Mexico, and Taiwan, according to the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID).

B.1.427/B1.429 are estimated to be 20% more infectious than the original coronavirus – they have become the most common coronavirus variants in California, accounting for just under 40% of sequenced cases, according to the CDC. This is likely because of a mutation called L452R mutation, which in early lab studies was shown to help the virus infect cells.

COVID-19 vaccines haven’t yet been tested against this variant specifically. But early lab experiments showed that antibodies produced by previous COVID-19 infections worked only half as well against the variant as they did with the original coronavirus strain.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers B.1.426/B1.429 a “variant of concern”, which means the CDC thinks there’s enough evidence that its mutations change its behavior. But it remains a “variant under investigation” according to the WHO, which means the WHO’s experts haven’t got enough evidence that it’s more deadly, more infectious or evades the immune response.

Read more: COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker: AstraZeneca’s shot proves safe and effective, and is headed to the FDA

B.1.526/ B.1.525, first identified in New York

covid scientist lab coronavirus testing samples
Scientists work in a lab testing COVID-19 samples at New York City’s health department, April 23, 2020.

These two variants were detected in New York in late 2020. They are “variants of interest” because they have mutations that could evade antibody responses. B.1.525 accounts for 0.5% of sequenced coronavirus tests in the US, according to the CDC.

B.1.617, first identified in India

india coronavirus
Mumbai Police personnel are tested for the coronavirus on October 15, 2020.

The variant first found in India, B.1.617 is in fact three distinct viruses. Collectively, they have spread to 17 countries, according to the WHO. All three have been detected in the US, according to GISAID.

B.1.617 is not yet a “variant of interest”, according to the CDC. But the WHO and UK have designated it a “variant under investigation” because it has some potentially worrying mutations.

These mutations could:

  • Make the virus more infectious or it may avoid the antibody response.
  • Make it more infectious.
  • Help the virus avoid the antibody response.

No studies to date have found that any of the variants first found in India are deadlier than earlier versions of the virus, or that it can evade vaccines.

B.1.526, first identified in New York

These two variants were detected in New York in late 2020. They are “variants of interest” because they have mutations that may evade antibody responses. B.1.526 accounts for under 10% of sequenced coronavirus tests in the US, according to the CDC.

P.2, first identified in Brazil

P.2 was first detected in Brazil in April 2020. It’s a “variant of interest” because it has the E484K mutation that may mean it evades antibody responses. Less than 1% of sequenced coronavirus tests in the US are P.2, according to the CDC.

P.3, first identified in the Philippines

P.3 was first detected in the Philippines in February. P.3 has the E484K mutation that may mean it evades the immune response. P.3 hasn’t yet been detected in the US.

B.1.525, first found in UK and Nigeria

B.1.525 was first found in the UK and Nigeria in December 2020. It has the E484K mutation that may mean it evades the antibody response. Less than 1% of sequenced coronavirus tests in the US, according to the CDC.

B.1.617, first found in France

B.1.617 was first found in France in January. It hasn’t been detected in any other countries. It may have mutations that mean it can evade tests.

Human behavior can help stop them spreading

AOC Elbow bump Houston Food Bank February 20201.JPG
Ocasio-Cortez elbow bumps a volunteer at the Houston Food Bank.

The WHO has said that everyone should double down on precautions that stop the spread of variants, such as social distancing, hand-washing, mask wearing, and avoiding crowds.

“Human behavior has a very large effect on transmission – probably much larger than any biological differences in SARS-CoV-2 variants,” Paul Bieniasz, a virologist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, told Insider.

Read the original article on Business Insider