The World Health Organization, WHO, says it is tracking a new COVID-19 variant known as BA.2.86. A tweet by Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, an epidemiologist and lead for the COVID response at the WHO, cautioned that there is very limited information available on the strain but said it needs monitoring due to its large number of mutations.
Van Kerkhove said surveillance and sequencing are critical to detecting new variants and tracking known ones.
Two cases of the new strain were found in Denmark earlier this week by an online virus tracker, which initially raised concerns about it. An identical lineage had been discovered in Israel just the day before.
Because of the variety of mutations each virus carries, virologists are confident that all three are the same virus. Scientists can determine each viral sample’s precise genetic make-up through a procedure known as “sequencing.”
The portion of the virus that attaches to human cells and spreads infection, the spike protein, has more than 30 alterations, according to preliminary studies on BA.6.
Some scientists have already called for the return of face coverings to slow the spread of the strain.
In a tweet, Dr. Trisha Greenhalgh, a primary healthcare expert at the University of Oxford, also wrote: “My various science WhatsApp groups are buzzing. Genetic lineage clips and diagrams are flying back and forth.’
The professor, who is also a member of the group Independent SAGE, added, ‘I understand little of the detail, but it looks like it’s once again time to mask up”.
Several have unknown functions, but others are thought to help the virus evade the immune system.
However, it still remains unclear if it will succeed in spreading efficiently or if it will just fizzle out like many other heavily mutated variants.
Greenhalgh, who is also a member of Independent Sage, a group of academics that called for an Australian-style COVID elimination strategy early on in the pandemic, acknowledged that she understood a little of the detail, however.
Army Put On Standby As UK Police Hand In Weapons
The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence is offering soldiers to support armed police in London after dozens of police officers stood down from firearms duties, BBC reports.
More than 100 officers have turned in permits allowing them to carry weapons, a source told the BBC, in support of a fellow officer who has been charged with murder over the fatal shooting of a young Black man, Chris Kaba.
The officer, named only as NX121, who appeared in court last week, has been charged over the death of Chris Kaba in September 2022.
Kaba died hours after he was struck by a single gunshot fired into the vehicle he was driving in the Streatham area of South London.
It later emerged that the Audi Mr Kaba was driving, which did not belong to him, had been linked by police to a gun incident the day before.
His death prompted a number of protests and renewed allegations of racism within the force.
The Ministry of Defence said it received a request, known as Military Aid to the Civil Authorities, from the Home Office to “provide routine counter-terrorism contingency support to the Metropolitan Police, should it be needed”.
A MACA is offered to the police or the NHS in emergency situations. The military helped medical staff in the Covid pandemic and covered for striking border staff and paramedics last year.
The Met said it was a “contingency option” that would only be used “in specific circumstances and where an appropriate policing response was not available”.
Military staff would not be used “in a routine policing capacity”, it added.
On Saturday, the Met said its own officers still make up the vast majority of armed police in the capital but they were being supported by a limited number of firearms officers from neighbouring forces.
Announcing the review, Home Secretary Suella Braverman said the public “depend on our brave firearms officers to protect us”.
“In the interest of public safety they have to make split-second decisions under extraordinary pressures.”
She said that officers have her “full backing”.
“I will do everything in my power to support them,” she added.
In his letter to the home secretary, the Met Police commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, said that a system where officers are investigated for “safely pursuing suspects” should not have been allowed to develop.
Sir Mark said he would “make no comment” on any ongoing legal matters, but “the issues raised in this letter go back further”.
He said firearms officers are concerned that they will face years of legal proceedings, “even if they stick to the tactics and training they have been given”.
“Officers need sufficient legal protection to enable them to do their job and keep the public safe, and the confidence that it will be applied consistently and without fear or favour,” he wrote.
But in instances where officers act improperly, Sir Mark said the system “needs to move swiftly” rather than “tying itself in knots pursuing good officers through multiple legal processes”.
Man Charged With Beating His Three Children To Death
Police in Thailand have charged a man with beating to death his two-year-old daughter and his two infant sons, BBC reports.
The police suspect Songsak Songsaeng also killed two other infant sons from a previous marriage.
The charges follow the discovery last week of the body of a two-year-old girl buried beneath a kitchen floor.
Police say Songsak claims to have a history of mental illness, and that he killed his children because he couldn’t tolerate the sound of their crying.
His wife has also been charged over the death of their two-year-old daughter. And his ex-wife has been charged over the deaths of the two boys. All three have been arrested. Songsak has been married four times.
Police were first alerted to a possible case of domestic violence at the Bang Khen district in Bangkok earlier this month.
Songsak’s neighbours reported that his two daughters, aged 12 and four, were being physically abused. Police rescued the two daughters while they were home without their parents.
The 12-year-old told police that their parents had beaten her two-year-old sister, which led to her death. She also helped police trace the body to where it was buried under a kitchen floor in north-west Thailand last week.
Thai police have also charged Songsak with the killing of two other sons he had with his third wife after his DNA matched with that of two infants, whose bodies were unearthed 10 years ago.
His third wife had said he killed their four infant sons and gave police locations where two were buried.
Police believe the two others may have been buried under an area where a petrol station now stands.
JUST IN: Russia Adds ICC President, Hofmanski, To Wanted List
The Russian Government, on Monday, said it had placed the President of the International Criminal Court, which is seeking the arrest of President Vladimir Putin, on its wanted list.
“Hofmanski Piotr Jozef, Polish. Wanted under an article of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation,” Russian news agencies reported, citing the Interior Ministry.
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