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A Tortoise File

The Covid Variants

Covid may be losing the vaccine battle. But, as the virus evolves fast to form new variants, the war is most definitely not over.

The Covid Variants

First published
Monday 1 March 2021

Last updated
Monday 1 March 2021

Why this file?

So many of the metaphors about the fight against Covid-19 have drawn on wartime imagery: sacrifice for the greater good; an implacable foe; a national struggle. It was as if we were fighting trench warfare against a virus – but the new variants of the disease make a mockery of the notion of a pitched battle. As we head across no-man’s-land, pointing syringes filled with vaccine at the enemy, we’re coming to terms with the idea that the coronavirus is a will-o’-the-wisp. By the time we get to it, it’s already shape-shifted. Viruses mutate: we knew, or we ought to have known. But only now are we fully recognising that the reason Covid-19 is here to stay is because of its mutations. As Matthew d’Ancona reports, the coronavirus variants are the single most important factor determining government policy and our chances of a return to what used to be normal life. 

Ceri Thomas, Editor