The mutant strain of coronavirus that has spread across the UK appears to be more contagious and is likely to result in higher hospitalizations and deaths next year, a new study has shown.
According to the study by the Center for Mathematical Modeling of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the variant is 56% more transmissible than other strains. There is no clear evidence that more or less serious illnesses occur.
The UK government had previously said that the mutated variant appears to be up to 70% more transmissible than other circulating strains. In addition, there are nearly two dozen mutations that can affect proteins made by the coronavirus, Patrick Vallance, the UK’s chief scientific adviser, said on Dec. 19.
This has raised concerns that tests, treatments, and vaccines that have just been launched may be less effective, although the European Health Authority said the variant is likely not different enough from previous ones to stand up to the Pfizer Inc. and shot BioNTech SE to withdraw. Countries like Australia, Denmark and Singapore have also discovered the strain.
Measures like England’s national lockdown in November are unlikely to bring the number of reproductions – the estimated new infections are from a single incident – down to less than 1 unless schools and universities are also closed, the report said. It also says that vaccine rollout may need to be accelerated to contain the spread, from 200,000 now to 2 million people a week.