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Coronavirus: Singapore researchers discover new variant of virus – AsiaOne



SINGAPORE – Researchers in Singapore have discovered a new variant of Covid-19 that causes less severe infections, according to a new study in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet.

This could provide new avenues for vaccine and therapeutic development, experts say.

The latest reported variant of the Sars-CoV-2 virus which causes Covid-19 emerged in Wuhan, China early in the pandemic and was exported to Singapore and Taiwan, according to the study by researchers in various institutions, including the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) and the Duke-NUS Medical School.

It was detected in a cluster of cases here in Jan and Feb. The researchers said in the study that patients infected with the variant, which has a 382 nucleotide deletion, were observed to have had better clinical outcomes relative to those infected by viruses without this deletion.

A lower proportion of them, for example, had hypoxia (where the body is short of oxygen) requiring supplemental oxygen, when compared with those infected with the wild-type virus.

A pre-print publication in March said that the same variant was found in eight hospitalised patients in Singapore and that viruses with the mutation or deletion in a region known as ORF8 had been circulating for at least four weeks. Similar variants were also observed in the Sars virus.

According to the Lancet study, the 382 variant was not detected after March. The researchers said in the paper that further study of variants that have deletions in the same region could have implications for the development of treatments and vaccines.

Weighing in, Professor Edison Liu, the former founding head of the Genome Institute of Singapore, and currently, the president and chief executive of The Jackson laboratory in the United States, said: “This is the first study to show a clinical difference based on the genetic differences between strains.

“This suggests that gene variations may have an important role in defining the disease outcome.”

Associate Professor Hsu Li Yang, an infectious diseases specialist from the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, said mutations will occur as Sars-CoV-2 continues to spread, and most of the time, these mutations will have little discernible impact on the transmissibility or virulence of the virus.

In rare cases, though, they may enable the virus to spread more easily, or become more or less deadly, he said.

ALSO READ: Covid-19 vaccine may be available in Singapore only at the end of next year: MOH

“In this particular case, the large (382 base pair) deletion resulted in a virus that is less deadly,” he said.

“If this mutant clade becomes very widespread, then the impact on health will become less.”

However, he added, “the actual impact will depend on how easily this particular mutant spreads, which we do not know well at present, because more than 99 per cent of the virus found in patients worldwide (or even in Singapore) will not have their full genomes sequenced”.

Experts note that viruses mutate constantly. It is a natural and mundane part of life for a virus. While mutations can make a virus more virulent, or it can make it less so, the changes are rarely significant.

For the latest updates on the coronavirus, visit here.

This article was first published in The Straits TimesPermission required for reproduction.

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Ontario reports 491 new COVID-19 cases –



TORONTO — Ontario is reporting 491 new cases of COVID-19 and two more deaths from the illness.

It’s the highest daily increase in cases reported in Ontario since early May.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says 137 cases were reported in Toronto, 131 cases in Peel Region and 58 each in Ottawa and York Region.

She says 63 per cent of the day’s new cases are among people under the age of 40.

In total, 112 people are hospitalized in Ontario due to COVID-19, including 28 in intensive care.

Elliott says the province conducted 42,500 tests since the last daily report.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 27, 2020.

By The Canadian Press

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Avoid gatherings, warn experts as 896 new COVID-19 cases reported in Quebec – Montreal Gazette



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His 15-year-old daughter Noa, a Grade 10 student at Villa Maria High School, said students her age “aren’t the best at following certain measures.”

“Our class sizes have increased and after school, when the bell rings, the hallways are jam-packed,” she said.

Dubé said Friday that Quebec has no plan to impose a second lockdown, in part because of fears that more people would instead gather in private homes.

But Kaufman warned that if people don’t limit their social contacts, more stringent measures could result.

“Further restrictions of bars, restaurants and other businesses are likely if things don’t turn a corner soon, and that will be tough for businesses that have already suffered a lot,” he said.

Quebec reported four new deaths Sunday, of which two were in the past 24 hours and the others between Sept. 20-25. Quebec’s death toll now stands at 5,825. Seven deaths were reported Saturday.

There were 216 people hospitalized for the virus Sunday, of whom 41 were in intensive care.

A total of 27,380 people tested on Friday, for a cumulative total of 2,260,835 people tested to date.

Kaufman said that while cases were concentrated in Montreal during the first wave in the spring, now they are more evenly spread across the province.

Montreal reported 1,542 new cases in the past week, for a cumulative total of 32,939. Two people died of COVID-19 in Montreal in the past week, and 31 people were hospitalized.

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51 new cases of COVID-19 announced in Manitoba on Sunday –



There are 51 new cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba on Sunday, the province says in a news release, including 36 in the Winnipeg health region.

Another eight new cases are in the Interlake-Eastern Health region, and four are in the Southern Health region, the release says. Two new cases are in the Northern Health region and the remaining one is in the Prairie Mountain Health region.

More information will be released about the new cases if a risk to public health is identified.

There are 13 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the province, the release says, including six in intensive care.

Five of those people, or a little over one-third, are attributed the Winnipeg health region, according to provincial data. Two of those people are in intensive care.

There are three people hospitalized with the illness are linked to the Prairie Mountain Health region (with two in intensive care) and three are attributed to the Southern Health region (with one in intensive care).

There is one person hospitalized with COVID-19 from the Northern Health region, and one person from the Interlake-Eastern health region is in intensive care.

Manitoba’s five-day test positivity rate — a rolling average of the proportion of COVID-19 tests that come back positive — is down slightly to 2.2 per cent, the release says.

There are now 589 active cases of the illness in Manitoba, including 490 — or 83 per cent — in the Winnipeg health region, according to provincial data.

There have been 1,880 cases of COVID-19 detected in Manitoba, the release says; 1,272 have recovered and 19 have died.

Masks being distributed

Manitoba Families will give out more than 227,000 reusable masks to its clients, the release says. That will come out to two per every adult in a household, and for kids aged five to nine. Older kids will instead get masks through their school or child-care provider, the release says.

That distribution will start in Winnipeg and continue across Manitoba in the coming weeks.

Starting Monday, people in Winnipeg and 17 surrounding communities will have to wear masks in all public indoor spaces and cap gatherings at 10 as the region moves to the orange — or “restricted” — level under the province’s pandemic response system.

The new rules will stay for at least four weeks, Manitoba’s top doctor said, which is roughly two incubation periods of the illness.

That timeframe, announced by Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin on Friday, includes Thanksgiving. The holiday falls on Oct. 12 this year.

The province is still working to increase capacity and reduce wait times at sites in Winnipeg as demand for COVID-19 testing spiked in response to increasing cases in the region.

On Saturday, 2,200 COVID-19 tests were done in Manitoba. There have now been 178,067 tests completed in the province since early February, the release says.

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