London, March 4 (IANS) A variant of SARS-CoV-2 that emerged in the UK – B.1.1.7 – in November 2020 is more transmissible than pre-existing variants and will lead to a large resurgence of Covid-19 cases, a new modelling study finds.
“Without stringent control measures, including limited closure of educational institutions and a greatly accelerated vaccine roll-out, Covid-19 hospitalisations and deaths across UK in 2021 will exceed those in 2020,” said the researchers, including Katherine E. Atkins from the University of Edinburgh.
For the study, published in the journal Science, the team analyzed 150,000 sequenced SARS-CoV-2 samples from across the UK and found that the relative population growth rate of the UK variant of Covid-19 in the first 31 days following its initial observation was higher than that of all 307 other virus variant lineages.
To understand possible biological mechanisms for this, the team used an age and regionally structured mathematical model of SARS-CoV-2 transmission to test several assumptions, including that the variant has a higher viral load or longer shedding period.
Based on their analysis, the team identified increased transmissibility as the model that best explains the variant’s rapid spread.
The team estimates that the novel variant has a 43-90 per cent higher reproduction number than pre-existing variants of SARS-CoV-2 in the UK.
The team used modelling to further analyze how interventions could reduce the potential burden of this new variant in the UK.
From the scenarios they assessed, they conclude that a substantially increased vaccine roll-out and school closures for 2021 may be needed to prevent Covid-19 deaths and hospitalizations in 2021 from exceeding those in 2020.