The new variant of coronavirus that has appeared in the UK is more transmissible and appears to affect a higher proportion of people under the age of 20, according to a report by Imperial College London and other scientific groups.
The worrying mutation has a “substantial transmission advantage” and is linked to “growing epidemics in almost all areas,” the scientists wrote. The researchers found that it can increase the rate of reproduction of the virus, which indicates how many people infect a patient by up to 0.7.
“This will make control more difficult and will further accentuate the urgency of launching vaccination as soon as possible,” said Neil Ferguson, a professor at Imperial who worked on shaping the outbreak.
The study found that social distancing measures that worked against previous strains of the virus were insufficient to control the spread of the new variant. The government has previously said that the new strain is 70% more transmissible than other versions, without providing documentation.
The researchers used statistical tools to assess the link between transmission and frequency of the new variant in the UK. The data has informed the government of pandemic planning in recent weeks, Ferguson said.
It is possible that the new variant will infect young people the most, because the research was carried out at a time when there were blockages, but the schools remained open, scientists said.