Professor Melissa Nolan, University of South Carolina, Who Specializes in Infectious Diseases, Reacting to News of a Variant or New Strain of the New Coronavirus Discovered in the u.k.

December 20, 2020

These changes in the viral composition are expected. At the moment we have not seen any dramatic genetic shifts of concern.

U.K. officials says this unique variant is much easier to spread – citing it as 70% more transmittable. Here’s why they are worried: “Recorded cases across the U.K. in the week to Sunday rose 51% over the week before.” (WSJ)

A sampling of health officials and experts say at this time:

The variant doesn’t appear to be more deadly.

  • Variants of a virus strain are expected.
  • The vaccines in circulation should still provide some immunity (as we’ve reported, the extent of immunity is not yet completely understood).
  • The variant has not been found *yet* in the United States.

Interesting to note: A variant of the new coronavirus in South Africa is *also* driving a “second wave” in the African country. This variant is similar but not identical to the one discovered in the U.K.

Why It Matters: U.K. officials say COVID-19 is spreading “out of control” in Southern England. The U.K. has issued further restrictions that will extend over the Christmas holiday and other European nations have moved to restrict travel to and from the U.K. to contain the transmission.


Meantime, an excerpt from The Wall Street Journal

Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser on Covid-19 to England’s public health agency, said Sunday there was no reason to think the new variant would be resistant to the current crop of vaccines being rolled out in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and some other countries. The vaccines aim to trigger a broad immune response that teaches the body to recognize the virus’s entire spike protein, so small mutations shouldn’t prevent that happening, she said.

Nor does it appear more dangerous. “We are not seeing a disproportionate number of people being admitted to hospital over the last two weeks and we’re not seeing any increases in mortality yet,” Dr. Hopkins said in an interview with Sky News. Nervtag said four deaths in 1,000 cases have been linked to the new variant, and more work is needed to compare fatality rates across different strains. WSJ

by Jenna Lee,