Sage expert sets out details of the new coronavirus variant

21 December 2020, 14:25

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

A Sage member has told LBC while the new strain of Covid-19 is more infectious it does not appear there is more risk of developing severe symptoms and being hospitalised.

After the UK was cut off from large parts of Europe - and some other areas of the world - as authorities imposed bans on passengers because of concern about the more infectious strain of coronavirus LBC spoke to an expert.

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Dr Mike Tildesley an Associate Professor of Life Sciences at the University of Warwick, and member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling Group, a sub-group of SAGE was speaking to Nick Ferrari.

Nick asked the expert if the new strain was "more life-threatening" than the previous strain.

Dr Mike said the answer was complex but said while it was "more infectious," meaning "you're more likely to infect more people."

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However, the professor said it doesn't appear that you are at any more risk of developing severe symptoms and being hospitalised.

Is the new variant something unusual?

There have been many mutations in the virus since it emerged in 2019.

This is to be expected - SARS-CoV-2 is an RNA virus and these viruses mutate and change.

Will vaccines still work?

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the latest clinical advice is that it is highly unlikely that this mutation would fail to respond to a vaccine.

The vaccine produces antibodies against many regions in the spike protein, and it is unlikely a single change would make the vaccine less effective.

However, this could happen over time as more mutations occur, as is the case every year with flu.

Public Health England said this new variant includes a mutation in the spike protein and that changes in this part of the spike protein may result in the virus becoming more infectious and spreading more easily between people.

Concerns about the spread of the new variant has led to the dramatic scaling back of Christmas plans, with mixing banned in Tier 4 areas and the three-household provision being allowed for just Christmas Day in the rest of England.

Boris Johnson said the new variant was up to 70% more transmissible than the original strain, while Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted it was "out of control" and the Tier 4 lockdown may have to remain in place for months.