UK’s CCP Virus Variant Less Virulent Than First Estimated: Experts

January 14, 2021 Updated: January 14, 2021

The virulence of the CCP virus variant that first emerged in England last year and triggered the country’s current third full national lockdown has been re-estimated and found to be lower than originally thought, according to experts.

Raghib Ali, Senior Researcher at the University of Cambridge MRC Epidemiology Unit, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday that findings (pdf) from a Public Health England (PHE) investigation show the variant is just 30 to 50 percent more transmissible than the original strain, rather than the previously estimated 50 to 70 percent.

Ali also wrote that compared to the original strain of the virus, the variant shows “no significant difference in age distribution” nor is it “more likely to infect children/younger people.”

The PHE investigation findings cover the period up to Jan. 4. They provide an update to previous briefings in December when, amid concerns over its rapid spread, the variant’s status was upgraded from a “Variant Under Investigation” as it was originally designated when identified in September to a “Variant of Concern.”

Tim Spector, Principal Investigator of the PREDICT studies and the ZOE COVID Symptom Study app has called the PHE’s findings a “more realistic estimate of the effect of the new COVID variant.”

He also echoed Ali when he wrote on Twitter that they show that the variant does not target any of the “major susceptible groups.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has resisted giving a review date for England’s stringent Stay at Home lockdown restrictions that were enacted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Jan. 5 amid fears of the variant’s rapid spread.

This is despite staunch criticism from a swathe of Tory backbenchers in the COVID Recovery Group, who’s chair, MP Mark Harper, has called for “a route back to freedom” and a review of restrictions on March 8 by when 15 million people in the four top vulnerable groups will likely have gained immunity from vaccines.

The PHE downward estimation of the transmissibility of the variant comes hot on the heels of other research, also from PHE, that studied immunity to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus among healthcare workers.

Scientists said the study shows that the level of natural immunity people acquire from having caught the virus in the past is high and likely to be roughly the same as the protection they will get from vaccination against the disease.

Over two and a half million people in the UK have thus far received an initial jab of a vaccine against the government’s target of 15 million people by Feb. 15.

The Department of Health and Social Care did not respond to a request for comment.