A new mutation of the coronavirus has appeared in the United Kingdom, which seems to speed up the spread of the virus. But how contagious is this British mutation (aka the Kent strain)? Should we be worried?
It is still unclear how the mutation originated, but the virus probably mutated in a patient with a malfunctioning immune system. In that case, your body cannot defeat the virus. This causes the virus to settle and the body becomes a place where the virus can mutate.
The new mutation is causing a lot of concern in the United Kingdom. To prevent further spread, the British government has announced strict measures. London and the southeast of England have been in lockdown for two weeks since Saturday. Moreover, it is no longer possible for passengers to travel to Europe by plane, train or boat. Lots of people are stuck in England and can’t go anywhere.
What about the faster spread? Since the mutation has only just become known, very little research has been done into it. There is therefore no evidence (yet) that shows that the new variant would be more lethal. However, there are concerns about the higher infection rate. According to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the mutation is 70% more contagious than the variant we already know.
Experts emphasize that this figure is only a starting point, a kind of average of the infection percentages from different studies. One researcher reports a higher infection percentage, while another says the percentage is lower. These studies are not yet public. Therefore, it is still too early to say what the infection percentage is exactly and whether the new mutation actually causes a faster spread.
Countries affected so far
In the Netherlands, Denmark and Italy some people are known to have been infected with the British mutation of the coronavirus. This was at the beginning of December already. So it is quite possible that a wider range of people have become infected with the new variant in the meantime.
There is no reason to believe that the recently approved vaccine would not work against this mutation. An adjustment of the vaccine may prove necessary in the future, but this can be relatively simple.