New Virus Variant in England up to 70 Percent More Transmissible: Boris Johnson

New Virus Variant in England up to 70 Percent More Transmissible: Boris Johnson
This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (round blue objects), also known as CCP virus, the virus that causes COVID-19, emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab that were isolated from a patient in the United States. (NIAID-RML via Reuters)
Lily Zhou
The new variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus observed in England recently is becoming “dominant” in terms of transmission, Patrick Vallance, the UK government’s chief scientific adviser said on Saturday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the variant could be 70 percent more transmissible.

Speaking at a TV briefing on Saturday afternoon, Johnson said that the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) had been analysing the new variant in the last few days.

“NERVTAG’s early analysis suggests the new variant could increase the R [reproduction number] by 0.4 or more,” Johnson said.

“Although there’s considerable uncertainty, it may be up to 70 percent more transmissible than the old variant, the original version of the disease,” he added.

“This is early data and it’s subject to review. But it’s the best that we have at the moment.”

The PM boasted “by far the best genomic sequencing ability” of the UK to identify new strains of the virus. He said that Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty had submitted their current findings to the World Health Organisation and will continue to study the variant.

“There’s no evidence to suggest it is more lethal or causes more severe illness,” Johnson added. “Equally, there’s no evidence to suggest the vaccine will be any less effective against the new variant.”

Speaking at the same briefing, Vallance told the nation that genetic studies, frequency studies, and laboratory studies all came together to suggest this virus has a significant, substantial increase in transmissibility.

“So the new variant was first thought to have occurred sometime in mid September, in London or Kent,” he said.

“This new variant, not only moves fast, it is increased in terms of its ability to transmit,” Vallance said while presenting a slide showing the percentage of the new variant in all positive cases across time in affected areas.

The new variant “is becoming the dominant variant, it is beating all the others in terms of transmission,” he added.

Vallance said the new variant contains 23 different mutations, which is an unusually large number.

In light of the new information, Johnson announced that the parts of England most affected by this new variant will be put into a new tier (Tier 4) from Sunday, and restrictions in this tier will be broadly equivalent to the national lockdown in England in November.
“In England, those living in Tier 4 areas should not mix with anyone outside their own household at Christmas,” Johnson said, reversing an earlier decision of rule-relaxation for the Christmas period.

“Across the rest of the country, the Christmas rules allowing up to three households to meet will now be limited to Christmas Day only rather than the five days, as previously set out,” the PM added.