When UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the recently discovered coronavirus mutation could be 70% more contagious than other strains, some experts questioned the estimate due to lack of sufficient data.
Many European countries have imposed travel bans in the UK to reduce the risk. Strain B.1.1.7 is a Covid mutation that carries a collection of 17 genetic changes, the first noteworthy mutation of the coronavirus.
While it may not cause more severe cases of COVID-19, these mutations could make it more contagious.
Some health experts have even warned that the changes could make existing vaccines less effective, although many others have said there are no such concerns.
Until yesterday, however, few data.
The new strain, experts agree, had to be tested in the laboratory to determine its true infectivity and its ability to evade antibodies generated after vaccines.
Well, now the first study on the new Covid mutation has arrived, and it tells the world that the threat could be serious. To prevent B.1.1.7 from getting out of hand, more stringent measures may be needed, including school and university closures, and accelerated vaccination campaigns.
The study comes from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine's Center for Mathematical Modeling of Infectious Diseases and was published online in prepress.
The conclusions of the first study on the Covid mutation
Scientists have found that the Covid mutation in the UK it is 56% more contagious compared to other versions circulating in the country and will require additional measures to contain it. The 56% estimate is still rough as researchers are collecting more data. The study found no evidence that the virus was more lethal than other strains, which is at least good news.
"The launch of the vaccine may need to be significantly accelerated," he says Nicholas Davies, lead author of the study. "Preliminary results show that faster vaccination will really be important for any country facing this or similar variants."
Scientists did not study the behavior of the virus in laboratory tests, but used computer models to predict the severity of the pathogen.
Computer models that also drew what could happen in the next six months with varying levels of restriction.
Covid mutation: possible scenarios
In short: cases, hospitalizations, hospitalizations and deaths in 2021 could exceed those of 2020 without a substantial vaccination campaign.
The researchers said closing schools until February could buy the country some time. The lifting of the restrictions would lead to a significant increase in cases.
How long should vaccinations "run" to work?
A vaccination model in which they are vaccinated 200.000 people every week showed that the pace would be too slow to affect the spread of the mutated virus.
“That kind of rhythm wouldn't be able to support the relaxation much of any of the control measures,” says Davies. If weekly vaccinations reach 2 million, Covid transmission could decrease.
But vaccine supply is still low and it will take a while for immunization campaigns to spread. Even once sufficient supply is available, it is unclear whether the rate of 2 million vaccinations per week can be achieved.
Like any other study, this Covid mutation could also benefit from additional data and could have limitations that impacted the models. Some experts have pointed out potential corrective measures, including the assumption that people under the age of 20 actually have a 50% chance of spreading the disease.
However, everyone agrees that this Covid mutation must be taken seriously or it could lead to another serious epidemic.