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Meet the variant hunters on the frontline


Professor Sharon Peacock is acutely aware that in her line of work there is “a fine balance between calling it right and unduly panicking people”. She is the executive director and chairwoman of the Covid-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium, which means she is on the frontline of looking at new variants of coronavirus and discussing what the appropriate response to them is. It also means that she goes to a lot of long, politically-charged meetings — where her colleagues do not always agree. “We had a meeting about the Indian variant that overran by at least an hour because there was so much debate as to whether we would escalate the seriousness of the threat posed by the variant or not,” says Dr Christina Atchison, who leads Public Health England’s rapid investigation unit. “The majority of us felt we should err on the side of caution but there was a lot of discussion. I’d have been inclined to wait two to three weeks before easing lockdown on May 17 until we knew more — it takes two to three weeks to grow the virus in a lab to understand it — but I appreciate there are political and economic considerations.”

Evening Standard - June 6, 2021

View the full story here: https://www.standard.co.uk/news/variant-hunters-lockdown-roadmap-science-b938534.html