Why Are We Quarantining the UK?

Grant Falvey/London News Pictures via ZUMA

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.

A new, more infectious variant of the COVID-19 virus is wreaking havoc in England, so now everyone is panicking and cutting off travel and commerce with the UK. But wait:

If a new virus sounds scary, a new mutating virus sounds scarier still. In Kent in September, scientists now believe, somebody with Covid was the unlucky first person to pass on a variant form of the coronavirus that is maybe as much as 70% more transmissible than the version we have been used to.

September? That was three months ago. So what are the odds that the B117 variant is still confined to England and hasn’t already taken up residence in all of Europe? Or even all of the world, for that matter? IANAE, but it sure seems like about zero to me. Here’s a report from BioSpectrum:

The new virus strains spread 70% faster with similar lethal effect; Cases reported in South Africa, Australia, Italy, Spain and parts of Europe.

The Washington Post reports the same:

Australia, Denmark and the Netherlands have identified cases of the variant in their countries…On Sunday, Italian officials announced that a patient returning from Britain “in the last few days” was in isolation after scientists detected the mutation. In South Africa, health officials said Sunday that a version of the virus similar to the U.K. variant has been found in 80 to 90 percent of samples analyzed since mid-November.

Is there really any point to quarantining the UK? What am I missing here?

THE END...

of our fiscal year is Thursday, June 30, and we have a much larger fundraising gap than we can easily manage with only days left to go.

Right now is no time to come up short: If you value the hard-hitting, democracy-protecting, justice-advancing journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us keep charging as hard as we possibly can with a much-needed and much-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

THE END...

of our fiscal year is Thursday, June 30, and we have a much larger fundraising gap than we can easily manage with only days left to go.

Right now is no time to come up short: If you value the hard-hitting, democracy-protecting, justice-advancing journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us keep charging as hard as we possibly can with a much-needed and much-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate