Paris: A mutated strain of coronavirus that is spreading in Britain is on average 56 percent more contagious than the original version, scientists in the study warned, calling for the rapid introduction of the vaccine to prevent more deaths.
The new variant, which appeared in south-east England in November and is spreading rapidly, is likely to spur hospitalizations and deaths from COVID next year, according to a study published Wednesday by the Center for Mathematical Modeling of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and tropical medicine.
Researchers, focusing on the English East, East and London, said it was still uncertain whether the mutated strain was more or less deadly than its predecessor.
“However, the increase in portability is likely to lead to a large increase in incidence, and hospitalizations and deaths of COVID-19 are projected to reach higher levels in 2021 than recorded in 2020, even if regional multilevel constraints are maintained applied before December 19, “” they said.
The authors warned that a national blockade introduced in England in November is unlikely to prevent an increase in infections “unless primary schools, secondary schools and universities are also closed”.
Any easing of control measures in the meantime would likely encourage a “major virus resuscitation.”
This meant that “the introduction of the vaccine may need to be significantly accelerated in order to have a significant impact on combating the resulting disease burden”.
Announcing stricter blocking measures during the Christmas holidays, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Saturday that the new virus strain “may be up to 70 percent more transmissible than the original version of the disease”.
The discovery of the new strain has raised alarm bells around the world, just as more and more countries have launched vaccination campaigns to stop a pandemic that has claimed more than 1.7 million lives since it appeared in China a year ago.
Many countries were quick to introduce travel bans from Britain, but EU governments have since begun easing restrictions.
The co-founder of BioNTech – one of the companies behind the vaccine being launched around the world this week – said its drug was “very likely” to work against a mutated strain discovered in Britain, and could otherwise be adjusted in six weeks.