The new, rapidly spreading variant of the coronavirus is “almost certain” in the “vast majority” of European countries, said a leading UK scientist.
Professor Neil Ferguson, a member of Nervtag – a subgroup of SAGE, also said that the variant was “everywhere now”, but that he hoped that Level 4 restrictions would have a beneficial impact.
Appearing via a video link, he told the members of the Science and Technology Committee today: “The fact that they [Denmark] collected 10 cases with sequencing of this new variant in a country as small as Denmark, with a relatively low infection rate, almost certainly suggesting, in my opinion, that this virus was introduced in the vast majority, if not all European countries in Europe. current time. “
Professor Ferguson, who was forced to resign from SAGE after breaking the rules of social distance in the first blockade, added: “Schools are closed, we are in a situation of almost blockade across the country.” Contact fees are lower at Christmas.
“I hope, although I hesitate to make any predictions, we will see a flattening of the curve in the next two weeks. We will see at least a slowdown in growth ”.
The Commons committee heard today that the variant probably started from a person in Kent and may have been caused by “random errors” when the virus is copied.
Speaking of other variants, Professor Ferguson added: “I think the one that concerns us most at the moment is that of South Africa. They have much poorer epidemiological data, but there are certainly anecdotal reports of explosive outbreaks with this virus and it increases in the number of cases.
“In addition, Nigeria is showing a sharp increase in the number of cases at the moment and we have no genetic data from there.”
Professor Peter Horby, president of Nervtag, also appeared in front of the committee and said there are a number of possible reasons why this variant of the virus appears to be spreading faster than others.
He said: “The underlying mechanism is not entirely clear – it may be because the virus replicates faster, which means that you get higher viral loads, which means that you are more infectious.
“It may take less time between being exposed and being infectious – if that time period is shortened, you get faster transmission.
“Or it could mean that the duration of the infection is longer.”