A leading scientist has warned that the new mutant virus which emerged in Southern England could be more deadly and more transmissible which is a “serious turn for the worse.”
A paper which was published last Friday by the New And Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said that there is a “realistic possibility” the new variant is associated with the increase in death.
The Nervtag data suggests that for one thousand who became infected with the old variant, around 20 will die.
However, the with the new variant there could be 13 or 14 people with similar increase in mortality, but the paper also stressed the “absolute risk of death per infection remains low.”
Professor Peter Horby of emerging infectious diseases, University of Oxford, and chairman of Nervtag, said, “The core principles of control remain exactly the same for this virus as the old variants.
“There’s no evidence that this new virus is evading any of the treatments that have been found to work or any of the vaccines.
“It just highlights the importance of continuing to drive down the numbers of infections occurring.”
Professor Medley added, “Whether or not you then want to make sure the incidence comes down further by either strengthening lockdowns or increasing the duration of a lockdown, I think it’s totally up to the Government to decide that.
“But it’s not that this new result suggests that we need to do anything hugely different – we’re still faced with the same as far as the NHS for the same urgency.”
John Edmunds, professor in the Centre for the Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and member of Nervtag, said, “If the case fatality ratio stayed the same, an increase in transmissibility is worse than a corresponding increase in case fatality because you have an expanding epidemic, and so more and more cases.
“Unfortunately, it looks as if this virus might be both, certainly increased transmissibility compared with the previous strains that we were dealing with, and it looks as if unfortunately it may also increase fatality as well, so it’s really a serious turn for the worse unfortunately.”
Professor Graham Medley also from the same department warned that the new strain is not more benign.
He said, “One of the possibilities was that this new variant would cause less mortality, it would be less virulent.
“And I think we can be absolutely sure that’s not the case.
“Whether there is a significant increase in mortality the evidence we have is very solid but it still could be wrong with different data or change with different data sets, but it’s certainly not the case that this is a more benign virus.”