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Cryptocurrencies tumble as coronavirus variant shakes markets

Bitcoin has tumbled over 9%, dragging smaller tokens down, after the discovery of a new, potentially vaccine-resistant coronavirus variant saw investors dump riskier assets for the perceived safety of bonds, the yen, and the dollar.

November 26, 2021 / 07:28 PM IST
Representative image

Representative image

Bitcoin tumbled over nine percent on November 26, dragging smaller tokens down, after the discovery of a new, potentially vaccine-resistant coronavirus variant saw investors dump riskier assets for the perceived safety of bonds, the yen, and the dollar.

Bitcoin, the largest digital currency, fell as much as 9.2 percent to $53,551, its lowest since October 10. The second-largest cryptocurrency ether fell over 13 percent to its lowest in a month as investors ditched cryptocurrencies.

Bitcoin, whose 13-year life has been peppered by bouts of extreme volatility, was on track for its biggest one-day drop since September 20. It has slumped by more than a fifth since hitting a record high of almost $70,000 earlier this month.

Scientists said the coronavirus variant, detected in South Africa, Botswana, and Hong Kong, has an unusual combination of mutations and may be able to evade immune responses or make it more transmissible.

"The spread of (the variant), especially to other countries, could wither investor appetite further," said Yuya Hasegawa at Tokyo-based exchange Bitbank. "BTC's upside will likely be limited and the market should brace for further loss."

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Bitcoin hit an all-time high of $69,000 earlier this month as more large investors embraced cryptocurrencies, with many drawn to its purported inflation-resistant qualities.

Others have piled into the digital token on the promise of quick gains, a draw that has been heightened by record low or negative interest rates. Yet bitcoin's volatility has lingered, drawing questions over its suitability as a stable store of value.

Ether was last at $3,924. It is down almost 20 percent from its record high hit on November 10.
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