Mutation is a direction

How dangerous are the coronavirus mutations?

When viruses get into body cells, they multiply there. That means: There are countless duplicates. During these processes, small copying errors occur again and again. This is a natural process and arbitrary variants, popularly also known as mutations, which in most cases have no serious consequences. The SARS-CoV2 coronavirus has already mutated before the new virus variants. But the new forms deserve special attention, because: Laboratory tests and a risk assessment by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) have shown that some mutations or variants are more easily transmitted from person to person or result in more severe disease courses .

What do we know about the Corona Mutation, which was first detected in the UK?

The so-called variant B.1.1.7 of the coronavirus has been spreading in the United Kingdom since autumn 2020. The virus variant has spread in all parts of Great Britain and makes up the largest part of all SARS-CoV-2 infections recorded there because it spreads transmits even more easily from person to person than the previously common forms. This virus variant has spread rapidly around the world. As the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) confirms, the proportion of infections with variant B.1.1.7 in Germany is now over 50%.

Variant B.1.1.7 has an increased number of reproductions and a higher viral load. According to previous findings and studies, there are also indications that infection with this virus variant could be associated with increased case mortality. Further research will paint a clearer picture of the changed properties of the virus variant.

What do we know about the corona mutation, which was first detected in South Africa?

In December 2020, another virus variant became noticeable - the so-called virus variant B.1.351 from South Africa. According to studies, this also works with one higher risk of transmission hand in hand. Infections with B.1.351 are increasingly being found in Europe. However, the proportion of infections with variant B1.351 is mostly in the single-digit range in Europe. In South Africa, the virus variant is now responsible for most of the corona infections. This virus variant from South Africa was also reported for the first time in December 2020. Several studies also indicate that people who were infected with the original variant or who received a vaccine based on this variant are less well protected from infection with B.1.351 because the neutralizing antibodies that the immune system has produced, are less effective against the altered virus. A higher transferability is also being discussed for this variant.

Where can I find more information about the coronavirus variants?

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) provides an overview of these and other SARS-CoV-2 variants.
  • The website of the consulting laboratory at the Berlin Charité provides an overview of current sequences.
  • The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has prepared molecular biological details of the variants found for the first time in Great Britain and South Africa. They are available here.

What measures can I take to prevent the spread of the coronavirus variants?

The dynamic of the distribution, especially of the variants B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 in some countries - also in Germany - is worrying. It is not yet fully clear how the new variants will affect the situation in Germany. But: the situation could worsen further. It is therefore all the more important to consistently adhere to the AHA + L + A formula in order to prevent infections with COVID-19 and curb the spread of the new, even more easily transmissible variants. It is therefore more important to keep your distance, observe hygiene rules, wear a mask in everyday life.

Does the corona vaccination work despite being infected with one of the new virus variants?

According to the current state of science, it can be assumed that the virus variants observed so far from Great Britain and South Africa probably hardly impair the effectiveness of the previously approved mRNA vaccines. One reason for this assumption is that only individual recognition sites of the surface spike protein (S protein) that are relevant for immune protection are affected by the virus mutations. In addition, both a complex immune response consisting of antibodies and a cellular immune response are triggered by the vaccination. Efficacy data from the widespread use of the approved vaccines are currently only available to a limited extent.

According to experts, the mRNA vaccines that have been approved by the European Commission, those of the German company BioNTech and the US company Moderna, also offer sufficient protection against the new coronavirus variants. The manufacturing process for mRNA vaccines also enables them to be quickly adapted to mutations if necessary.

Both manufacturers of mRNA vaccines BioNTech and Moderna are planning various booster vaccines, so-called “boosters”, which can then be administered after the first two vaccinations and are intended to provide better protection against the virus variants.

Stopping the spread of the coronavirus mutation: what measures is the federal government taking?

It is important to work together to prevent spreading in Germany as much as possible. The federal government has decided on the following preventive measures:

Entry rules:

Anyone who has been in a so-called virus variant area in the last 10 days before entering the Federal Republic of Germany, in which virus variants with serious changes in properties are spread, must contact the transport company (e.g. flight or airline) before entering the country Railway company), can prove that there is no infection with the coronavirus. A test result or a corresponding medical certificate is considered evidence. This proof can also be requested at the immigration control. The swab for the test must have been taken no earlier than 48 hours before entry. The test carried out must meet the requirements stated at www.rki.de/tests. From March 30th to May 12th, all air travelers must be tested before entering Germany - more on this here. In addition to the obligation to digitally register for entry, to provide evidence of a test and the quarantine rules under national law, there is a time-limited restriction on the transport of people from the states classified as virus variant areas to the Federal Republic of Germany to protect the population in the Federal Republic of Germany and to limit the entry of new virus variants . There are only very limited exceptions to the transport ban, including for people with residence and right of residence in the Federal Republic of Germany. The transport ban is currently in effect until May 12, 2021.

Here is a list of the risk areas, including the regions that are currently considered virus variant areas. Coronavirus sequencing

In order to get a better overview of circulating known virus variants and their pattern of spread and, above all, to reliably and quickly discover newly emerging virus variants, the federal government is promoting nationwide sequencing of viruses. The sequence of the genetic components is determined, which is crucial in order to distinguish the original coronavirus from its variants with mutations.

The Bundestag laid the legal basis for this in the third Civil Protection Act. Only then is it possible to collect the sequencing reporting data in a structured manner and merge them at the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). For the transmission of sequence data, the RKI provides a technical platform that all sequencing laboratories in Germany can use. Sequencing usually takes place in three phases (phase 0 to phase 2).

On January 19, 2021, the new Coronavirus Surveillance Ordinance of the Federal Ministry of Health (BMG) came into force, which defines measures for nationwide molecular surveillance, i.e. the systematic and continuous monitoring of the virus. Among other things, this is to be achieved through a collection point for all sequence data obtained in Germany and a nationwide laboratory network.

Risk area, high incidence area, virus variant area

In principle, there is always an obligation to digitally register, test and quarantine for entry from the above-mentioned areas. Depending on the area, different requirements and exceptions then apply. The test carried out must meet the requirements specified at www.rki.de/tests.

Risk areas: This refers to regions in which there is an increased risk of infection with the coronavirus. They are determined after a joint analysis by the Federal Ministry of Health (BMG), the Foreign Office (AA) and the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Home Affairs (BMI). If you have stayed in one within 10 days before entering Germany, you must be able to present a negative test result no later than 48 hours after entry. Thesmear for the test48 hours before entry at the earliest have been made.

High incidence area: These are regions in which the number of cases of those newly infected with COVID-19 is particularly high. Entrants who have been in a high-incidence area within the last ten days before entering the country are obliged to have themselves tested before starting their journey to Germany.

Virus variant area: These are regions in which certain variants of the coronavirus (mutation) have demonstrably occurred, which at the same time have not spread to the same extent in Germany. In addition, it must be assumed that the coronavirus variants pose a particular risk in the form of, for example, easier transferability or more severe disease courses. In order to counter the risk potential that emanates from the entry of dangerous, new types of mutations, all persons entering a virus variant area are obliged, without exception, to carry a current test certificate with them upon entry. This ensures that people entering the country undergo a test for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus before entering the country. This serves to limit the entry of dangerous, novel virus variants.

A complete and constantly updated list of the regions concerned can be found here.

Entry from risk areas

The quarantine obligations ordered by the federal states when entering from risk areas continue to apply. According to state law, there may be exceptions to the quarantine obligation. The "Ordinance on the protection against the risk of infection due to entry in relation to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus after the German Bundestag has determined an epidemic situation of national scope" (Coronavirus Entry Ordinance) essentially provides:

The digital entry registration must be completed by all persons entering the country who have been in a risk area or an area with a particularly high risk (high incidence area or virus variant area) in the last ten days prior to entry and who do not fall under one of the exceptions. The application can be accessed via the website www.einreiseanmeldung.de. Travelers who have stayed in a risk area in the last ten days must have a negative test result or a corresponding medical certificate at the latest 48 hours after entry. You must submit this to the authority responsible under the Infection Protection Act, usually the health department, upon request.

Anyone entering from a risk area in which, for example, the frequency of new cases of illness is particularly high (high incidence area) or worrying virus variants are widespread (virus variant area), must provide a negative test result or a corresponding medical certificate before entering the country - possibly with the transport company can prove that there is no infection with the coronavirus. This evidence can include are also required at the immigration control.

From March 1, 2021, operators of mobile networks will inform their customers via SMS about the entry regulations applicable in Germany in connection with the coronavirus and the infection control measures to be observed.