A report by the United Kingdom government’s scientific advisers claimed that the variant of the novel coronavirus that is dominant in the UK could be as much as 70 per cent more deadly than the previous strains.
The prevalent concerns about how mutations may change the characteristics of SARS-CoV2 – the Covid-19 causing virus, have been underscored and could alter the course of the pandemic, said the findings of the report published by the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) on the UK government’s website.
The report was based on about 12 studies conducted on the new variant – most of which concluded that the so-called Kent variant, named according to the British county where it was first detected, is likely between 30 per cent and 70 per cent more deadly compared to the other variants of the novel coronavirus that can be found currently.
The studies were based on comparison of data on rates of hospitalisation and death for people who had been infected with the B.1.1.7 variant and those who had been infected with other variants.
Experts from universities and public agencies across the UK are part of the NERVTAG.
David Strain, a clinical senior lecturer at the University of Exeter Medical School and the clinical lead for COVID-19 at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital said that the worries of the findings of the group are worrisome.
“The higher transmissibility means that people who were previously at low risk of catching COVID (particularly younger fitter females) are now catching it and ending up in hospital,″ Strain said. “This is highlighted by the latest figures for hospitalisation that now suggest almost 50:50 male-to-female ratio compared to this being predominantly in men during the first wave.″
There have been more than four million Covid-19 infections in the UK till date while more than 117,000 people have died because of the disease all across the country which marked one of the worst death rates from the disease in the world.
Previous estimates by experts had claimed that the B.1.1.7 coronavirus strain could be between 30 and 70 per cent more infectious compared to the original virus strain.
The new variant spread quickly throughout the UK to become the dominant strain after it was first detected in September last year.
Many also believe that this new virus strain was also the reason for a sudden and rapid rise in the Covid-19 caseload in the country in recent months and behind the rising death toll. This forced the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to implement a third lockdown in the country on January 4.
The variant has also quickly spread to other parts of the world.
Infections of Covid-19 caused by the strain was reported from 83 countries, the the World Health Organization (WHO) has noted. The new variant can now be found on every continent of the Earth except Antarctica.
Some protection against B.1.1.7 is provided by the Covid-19 vaccines in use in the UK – developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca, according to research.
But there are fears of new and emerging variants of the novel coronavirus because of the speedy spread of this variant.
(Adapted from AlJazeera.com)