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The BSE Sensex, rattled into dropping 3% on Monday by the UK’s detection of a highly infectious strain of coronavirus, regained some of its nerve on Tuesday, rising about 1%. The session saw a couple of big swings, and it was not until midday that India’s main stock index began looking up. So was the downslide an overreaction?

A global alarm was set off over the weekend by British health secretary Matt Hancock’s use of the term “out of control" to describe the strain. Other countries reacted with alacrity to seal themselves off from the UK. India suspended flights from there, and samples have been taken from a few arrivals found covid-positive for genome sequencing to identify which variant of the virus they brought along. Reports suggest this new one has undergone multiple mutations into a form that allows it to spread faster. Whether it’s also more lethal is unknown. Many such pathogens lose potency as they mutate. What this one will do is uncertain. While our vaccines are likely to be effective against it, it’s not impossible for it to recode itself and dodge jabs. If so, they’ll need some rework, that’s all. This should justify alertness, not panic.

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