As announced on Monday, the UK has identified a new variant of Covid-19 through Public Health England’s genomic surveillance.
As a result of the rapid spread of the new variant, preliminary modelling data and rapidly rising incidence rates in the South East, the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) now consider that the new strain can spread more quickly.
There is no current evidence to suggest the new strain causes a higher mortality rate or that it affects vaccines and treatments although urgent work is underway to confirm this.
“We have alerted the World Health Organization and are continuing to analyze the available data to improve our understanding. Given this latest development it is now more vital than ever that the public continue to take action in their area to reduce transmission.” said Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty
NERVTAG’s early analysis suggests the new variant could increase R by 0.4 or greater. Although there is considerable uncertainty, it may be up to 70% more transmissible than the old variant.
“This is early data. It is subject to review. It is the best we have at the moment, and we have to act on information as we have it because this is now spreading very fast.” Said Prime Minister Boris Johnson
The U.K. has by far one of the best genomic sequencing ability in the world, which means they are better able to identify new strains like this than any other country.
There is still much we don’t know about the new strain of COVID-19, except that the new variant is transmitted more quickly. There is no evidence to suggest that it is more lethal or causes more severe illness. Equally there is no evidence to suggest the vaccine will be any less effective against the new variant.