Expert explains why the “more contagious” Covid-19 strain is spreading faster in the UK

A new variant of the Covid-19 strain was discovered in the UK last week and could be the reason for the surge in cases in the country. Scientists and researchers say the new strain has much higher transferability than the previous variant.

Although experts believe the vaccines that have been introduced against the new strain will be effective, the fact that it is speeding up has forced the UK government to take urgent action in the form of tighter restrictions before Christmas.

Retired doctor Mohan Gupte, founding director of the ICMR Epidemiology Division in Chennai, spoke to India Today TV and explained why the new Covid-19 strain is spreading faster and whether it will jeopardize current efforts to fight the pandemic.

How harmful is the new Covid strain?

Gupte said the new variant was discovered in southern England around September 20. This is the time when Covid-19 cases in the country skyrocketed.

“This new variant shows 17 changes in the genome, this is a very big change. Because of this change, the transferability of this virus has also changed and is 70% more contagious compared to the previous variant, ”said Gupte.

Gupte said there was a high chance the new strain was still in the UK as it had not been detected in other parts of Europe.

He also said the Covid-19 virus is pretty stable compared to influenza. “It has its own repair mechanism and therefore the changes that occur with the Covid-19 virus are comparatively small and very slow,” added Gupte.

With regard to the transmission rate of the new virus variant, Gupte said that it had a “very high transmission rate” of 70 percent compared to the previous variant with 50 percent. He re-confirmed that the sharp rise in cases in the UK is mainly due to the new fast-spreading strain of the virus.

Is India under threat?

When asked whether India was threatened by the new Covid-19 variant, Gupte said it was currently difficult to say.

“The virus (new Covid-19 variant) will definitely show up here in India if it has not already done so, as the contact rate within the globe is very high,” said Gupte.

“People tend to get moving despite the coronavirus pandemic and the restrictions that have been imposed. It is entirely possible that India already has this new variant that was found in England, ”he added.

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However, he said the effects of the new strain of the virus on India need further study. Commenting on the current situation in India, Gupte said cases in India have decreased significantly. He added that the rate of increase and severity of cases in India is also “very low”.

However, the doctor believes that the new strain may not adversely affect India. “I think the chances of India getting a (higher) number of cases like the UK are very slim,” he said.

Do Current Vaccines Work?

Mohan Gupte went on to say that existing vaccines are likely to be effective against the new strain of coronavirus in the UK. He said British scientists are studying the new variant of the virus and are expected to provide more clarity about it.

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“But if we know about this virus, since we’ve been studying it since last December, it’s very stable. Therefore, the new variant of this virus is also controlled by the same vaccines that are currently being developed, ”said Gupta.