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Scientists identify two new coronavirus variants

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Researchers in Ohio said Wednesday that they'd discovered two new variants of the coronavirus that likely originated in the US — one of which quickly became the dominant strain in Columbus, Ohio, over three weeks in late December and early January.

Like the strain first detected in the UK, the US mutations appear to make Covid-19 more contagious but do not seem like they will diminish the vaccines' effectiveness, researchers said.

One of the new strains, found in just one patient in Ohio, contains a mutation identical to the now-dominant variant in the UK, researchers said, noting that it "likely arose in a virus strain already present in the United States." However, the "Columbus strain," which the researchers said in a press release has become dominant in the city, includes "three other gene mutations not previously seen together in SARS-CoV2."

"This new Columbus strain has the same genetic backbone as earlier cases we've studied, but these three mutations represent a significant evolution," Dr. Dan Jones, vice-chair of the division of molecular pathology at Ohio State and lead author of the study, said in a statement. "We know this shift didn't come from the UK or South African branches of the virus."

Jones added that it's too early to determine how much more infectious the strain in Columbus might be, but researchers believe it's likely more contagious just based on how quickly it's spread over the past few weeks.

Peter Mohler, chief scientific officer at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center and co-author of the forthcoming study, said there's no data to indicate that either of the new strains will impact vaccines' effectiveness.

In mid-December, it became known that a new mutation of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus was discovered in the UK. Later, the United Kingdom authorities confirmed that the variant of coronavirus detected in the country is spreading at a faster rate and requires the population to be even more careful. According to preliminary estimates, the new strain maybe 70% more contagious than usual. Nothing yet suggests that it is more dangerous in terms of mortality or hospitalization.

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Oil falling on fears of decrease in global demand

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World oil prices slightly decreased on January 25 morning, as the situation with the coronavirus and quarantine restrictions in the world raises concerns around the prospects for demand in crude, Report informs citing Prime agency.

As of 8:46 (Baku time), the price of April futures for North Sea Brent crude oil blend fell by 0.14 percent, to $55.17 per barrel, March futures – by 0.13 percent to $55.34. The price of March futures for WTI oil dropped by 0.08 percent to $52.23 per barrel.

"Signs of weakening oil demand are holding back the market," Reuters reports referring to analysts at ANZ, pointing to the quarantine situation in China, Hong Kong, and France.

Fears of tightening restrictions in connection with the coronavirus pandemic generally restrain expectations for oil demand. So, earlier, the media reported about the possibility of a new tightening of quarantine in France.

Besides, the markets are worried about the statistics on infections in China, which is the largest oil importer in the world.

Over the past day, 124 cases of coronavirus infection have been detected in the country. Since the middle of the month, the figure has exceeded 100 cases per day, which corresponds to July’s statistics. Investors fear the lunar New Year celebration in China could trigger a new surge in infections.

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Georgia reports 198 Covid cases, 16 died

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Georgia recorded 298 new COVID cases over the past 24 hours.

Meanwhile, 1,311 patients recovered from the disease, and 16 others died, Report’s Georgian Service reported citing the country’s National Center for Disease Control and Public Health.

The Caucasian country has registered 253,816 cases of COVID-19 infection since the pandemic onset. The total number of recoveries has reached 243,396, while the death toll hit 3,071.

Currently, 7,323 patients are being treated in the country for COVID-19.

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South Korea culls 21.7 million poultry due to bird flu

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As many as 21.7 million poultry were killed on all farms in South Korea as part of measures to combat avian flu, Report mentions, citing the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

In November 2020, a highly pathogenic H5N8 bird flu virus was detected in South Korea.

Seventy-two cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza have been registered in the country.

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