Covid variant 'should be treated as a new pandemic within a pandemic'

One scientist has said that the new variant of coronavirus should be treated as a “new pandemic within a pandemic”.

Dr. Adam Kucharski, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “The first signals we’re seeing suggest that the population is probably less moving than in November, but maybe a little more than in April, and that is worrying, of course, because with this new twist, essentially every interaction we have has become riskier than before. “

The Sage member added, “Even if we went back to the reduction in contacts last spring, we couldn’t be sure that we would see the same impact as last year due to the increased transmission.”

“To some extent, we can think of this as a new pandemic within a pandemic.

“The published data indicate that this is a very serious threat. New data from PHE (Public Health England) released yesterday suggests the per-contact risk is likely 40-50% higher than it was.

“For both the UK and many other countries we need to get rid of this idea that we are going to see a repeat of what happened to our behavior last spring and really face the possibility that it is much riskier and us will have to work a lot harder to reduce the impact. “

His comments come after Susan Michie, a professor of health psychology at University College London, said the current lockdown was “too lax”.

The member of the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage) told BBC Radio 4’s Today, “If you look at the data, it shows that almost 90% of people mostly abide by the rules, although we also see more people over.

“I think one of the explanations for this is that this is actually a pretty lax ban because we still have a lot of household contact and people go in and out of each other’s houses.”

“If you’re a key nurse, non-essential trader, or nanny, you have mass gatherings on religious events, open kindergartens and, what really matters, you have this broad definition of critical worker, so we have 30-50% of that (School) classes are currently full and so the public transport system is very full of people driving to and from all of these things. “

She added, “It’s definitely too casual because if you think about it and compare us to March, what do we have now?

“We have the winter season and the virus survives longer in the cold. Also, people spend more time indoors and we know that aerosol transmission that occurs indoors is a very large source of transmission for this virus.

“And secondly, we have this new variant that is 50-70% more contagious. You put those two things together. Alongside the NHS crisis, we should have a stricter lockdown, no less stringent than in March. “

Health Minister Matt Hancock announced in mid-December that experts had identified a new variant of the coronavirus that may have been responsible for the “faster spread” in south-east England.

According to the ONS, which includes information on infections in private households, 81% of positive cases in London from December 28 to January 2 are genetically compatible with the new variant, while in eastern England it is 78%.

Two other regions with estimates above 50% were South East England (67%) and South West England (53%).

The estimated percentages of positive cases compatible with the new variant were 33% for Northern Ireland, 22% for Scotland and 5% for Wales.

Sage said Friday that the reproductive number, or R-value, of coronavirus transmission in the UK is between 1 and 1.4.

This means that an average of every 10 people with the virus will infect between 10 and 14 other people.

According to Sage, the latest estimates relate to the transmission of Covid-19 in recent weeks rather than the current situation and do not take into account the impact of recent policy changes, such as the lockdown imposed in England.

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