As death rates begin to decline in Britain, questions are being asked about whether more could have been done to stop the new, more infectious, variant of COVID-19 from spreading as rapidly as it did through the UK in December. Experts are suggesting that tighter lockdown restrictions will be required to control the spread of the B117 variant, until the majority of people have been vaccinated.
Early evidence suggests it’s more deadly, as Dr. Kathrina Crystallis saw first-hand as death rates surged after Christmas:
“If you’ve got a virus that’s 70% more transmissible than a previous virus that was very transmissible and you’re not in lockdown – it’s going to spread. And that’s what happened.”
Peter Openshaw, an Immunologist at Imperial University, says hospital admissions we're the first clue.
“In all parts of the country where this variant has become common, there’s been an increase in hospital admissions, an increase in the number of cases – and it’s become increasingly difficult to control the viral spread by the sort of measures that did work before.”
Gary Mclean, a Professor in Molecular Immunology, says that although expected, these mutations give the virus an advantage:
“We knew coronaviruses could mutate, we knew they could change their genome. What we weren’t expecting is these new variants to appear that gave it a huge advantage in transmission”.
Lobby Akinnola lost his father to COVID-19 at the end of last year and questions the speed at which lockdowns came into place:
“I think in December we saw the government repeat the mistakes that it made in the first wave of the pandemic. It affects me personally, I can’t help but think – would my dad still be here had we locked down just a couple of weeks earlier?"
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