The rapid spread of the UK variant, B.1.1.7, has scientists worried about a terrible new wave of COVID-19 cases, Science reports.
The new variant appears to be 50-70% more transmissible, according to London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine modeler Adam Kucharski. He warns that heightened transmissibility is “much more treacherous” than increased pathogenicity, sending more cases to already-overtaxed health systems.
Scientists are watching how quickly the variant spreads in other countries.
- Ominous early numbers are being seen in Ireland and Denmark.
- The UK, Germany, and other countries are quickly rolling out sharp new restrictions.
- A wait-and-see mode in other countries worries University of Basel virologist Emma Hodcroft: “I really hope that this time we can recognize that this is our early alarm bell … our chance to get ahead of this variant.”
- As of yesterday, the UK variant had been detected in 40 other countries/territories; and the South Africa variant in 6, according to the WHO.
Another reason to act: “The more virus is circulating, the more chance mutants have to appear,” Jeremy Farrar, Wellcome Trust’s director, told Science.