Experts say new virus variants do not necessarily lead to deadlier forms of COVID-19 but they are more infectious.
A British teenager is slowly emerging from a coma after nearly a year and has no knowledge of the coronavirus pandemic, despite having twice contracted COVID-19.
Joseph Flavill, 19, suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was hit by a car in the central English town of Burton-on-Trent on March 1 last year, about three weeks before a first national lockdown was imposed to curb the spread of the virus.
During that time, his family has been largely unable to visit him due to coronavirus restrictions, mostly trying to communicate with him via video link instead.
His mother has not been able to touch him since his accident.
“Recently Joseph has started to show small signs of recovery, which we are thrilled about… We know now he can hear us, he responds to small commands,” his aunt, Sally Flavill, told Reuters news agency.
“When we say to him ‘Joseph, we can’t be with you, but you are safe, this is not going to be forever’, he understands, he hears you, he just can’t communicate,” she said, adding that he now signalled ‘yes’ with a blink and ‘no’ with two blinks.
Joseph, who was initially treated in hospital but has since been moved to a care home, has caught COVID-19 twice during his recovery from the accident but recovered on both occasions.
Since his accident, the UK has registered nearly four million COVID-19 cases, including more than 110,000 deaths, in a pandemic that has turned life upside down worldwide, shuttering schools, universities, shops and more.
“I don’t know how Joseph will ever understand our stories of this lockdown,” his aunt said, adding that he was still very ill and faced a “very, very long journey” back to some kind of normal life.
She told The Guardian newspaper that she didn’t know “where to start” in explaining the fallout from COVID-19.
“A year ago, if someone had told me what was going to happen over the last year, I don’t think I would have believed it,” she said. “I’ve got no idea how Joseph’s going to come to understand what we’ve all been through.”
Joseph, who before the accident was a keen sportsman, is now receiving treatment at a care home in Stoke-on-Trent, central England, and his family has started a fund-raising campaign to help support his long-term recovery.
They have raised nearly 29,000 British pounds ($40,000) to date.