New research suggests that the coronavirus became “much more deadly” in late 2020 during the second wave.
Using modeling tools, experts showed that infections became even more deadly before the highly transmissible alpha variant caught on.
They believe other factors, including pressure on health services and the colder months, may have resulted in more people dying from infection than in the first half of 2020.
The team wrote in the journal PLOS ONE that “according to our models, the number of cases and mortality data do not offer any clear evidence of a higher lethality of a new variant.
“We compare these results for Great Britain with similar models for Germany and France, which also show an increase in the inferred IFR (Infectious Mortality Rate) over the same period, despite the later arrival of new variants in these countries.
“We argue that while the new variant (s) may be a cause of a sharp rise in IFR in the UK in autumn 2020, other factors such as seasonality or pressures on health services are likely to have contributed.”
Expert analysis, performed using a statistical approach known as Bayesian inference, relied on weekly data on the number of cases and the number of Covid-19 deaths.
They concluded that the coronavirus became more deadly in late fall 2020, just before the second lockdown, meaning an infected person is more likely to die.
It was widely believed that this was due to the spread of the alpha variant, but new research suggests that infections were more deadly even before that point.
Between September 2020 and March 2021 – generally accepted as the second wave – there were 95,967, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
There were 57,896 Covid-19-related deaths in the UK during the first wave of the pandemic (through August 2020), according to the ONS.
The team called for further studies on all factors affecting the lethality of Covid.
Last winter, the alpha variant was held responsible for introducing strict household mixing measures, including over Christmas.
The variant was first discovered in September. In November, around a quarter of the cases in London were the new variant, in mid-December it was around two thirds of the cases.
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