Although the nation’s second lockdown in November has been introduced, the new variant of Covid-19 that first arrived in the southeast of England was already spreading at a fast pace, scientists at Imperial College London said in a report published Thursday.
In December, scientists at Imperial College London has published a report estimated that during the November lockdown, the latest coronavirus strain tripled increased by three times its infection rate in England. The number of new cases related to the previous variant decreased by 35%.
A higher reproduction (R) rate was created by the new strain – which implies how dangerous this disease is, based on the number of people infected by each infected person – of 0.7 versus 0.4 for the previous strain, despite the “high levels of social distancing” throughout the pre-Christmas lockdown.
To start dropping, an R rate must be smaller than 1 for the number of new cases. The R rate for the UK as a whole, released on December 23, was between 1.1 and 1.3, according to the British government’s newest estimate.
Covid-19 cases in U.K.
In late December, around 50 countries have imposed travel restrictions on the UK because of the new variant, many of which were eased afterward. On December 25, France confirmed its first case of the new variant in the country. Europe is demanding a huge supply of medical items such as medical masks, disposable gloves, and protective suits.
Axel Gandy, a statistician at Imperial College London and a co-author of the report, told the BBC that there was a big difference in how easily the variant virus spreads. “This is the most serious change in the virus since the epidemic began,” he said.
Initially, the new strain was spreading most rapidly among people under 20 years of age, but it then began spreading to different age groups, the Imperial College research also explored.
Gandy said during the time of the November lockdown, the early data was collected where schools were open and other activities of the adult population were more controlled. “We are seeing now that the new virus has increased infectiousness across all age groups,” he added.
78 percent of the English population were under the new lockdown reimposed by the government on Wednesday. At the same time, regional authorities in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have also imposed confinement measures.
On December 29, intensive care units exceeded their capacity in the capital city, London, and the southeast region. Their occupancy reached 114 and 113 percent respectively, from NHS data leaked to specialist publication the Health Services Journal. The government enabled one of its Nightingale Hospitals in response to the situation – created to work especially with Covid-19 patients, thereby leaving the pressure off hospitals which are overburdened – in London in late December.
It is suggested that keeping schools closed after the Christmas holidays is helping to control the virus’s spread, the Imperial College reported that whether it will be possible to maintain control over transmission while allowing schools to reopen in January is a big concern. The Christmas holidays have been extended until January 11 by the government, as secondary schools in England are planned to resume classroom attendance. On January 4, pupils will return to English primary schools, except in the virus hotspots, including London and other surrounding areas.
57,000 cases of Covid-19 on Saturday.
It is “inevitable” that schools will have to stay closed to contain the new Covid-19 variant running out of control. Deepti Gurdasani, a clinical epidemiologist and a senior lecturer at Queen Mary, University of London, reported to the Financial Times.
The UK recorded more than 57,000 cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, the fifth day running that it has topped 50,000, and another 445 deaths. In general, more than 2.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases have been seen in the United Kingdom, while its death toll reaches more than 75,000, only after Italy in Europe, and sixth in the world.
Accelerating the rollout of vaccines is what the government needs to do now if it wishes to control the new Covid-19 strain, its scientific advisory committee suggested on December 22, warning that “current rates of vaccination are unlikely to significantly change the epidemiology” of the virus.
In the Western world, The UK was the first to approve the use of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca jabs for emergency use. One million vaccines have so far been distributed by the authorities, Health Secretary Matt Hancock wrote in a tweet. BBC reported that more than 950,000 people have had the first jab.