Faster-spreading Covid-19 strain affects young the most, study finds

People walk across London Bridge in Britain's capital on Dec 15, 2020.
People walk across London Bridge in Britain's capital on Dec 15, 2020.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - The new coronavirus variant that emerged in Britain is more transmissible and appears to affect a higher proportion of people under 20, according to a report from Imperial College London and other science groups.

The mutation of concern has "a substantial transmission advantage" and is linked to "epidemic growth in nearly all areas," the scientists wrote.

It can raise the virus' reproduction rate, which indicates how many people one patient infects, by as much as 0.7, the researchers found.

"This will make control more difficult and further accentuates the urgency of rolling out vaccination as quickly as possible," said Neil Ferguson, a professor at Imperial who has worked on modeling the outbreak.

Social distancing measures that worked against earlier strains of the virus were insufficient to control the spread of the new variant, the study found.

The government had previously said the new strain was as much as 70 per cent more transmissible than other versions, without providing documentation.

The researchers used statistical tools to evaluate the link between transmission and frequency of the new variant across Britain.

The data has informed the government's pandemic planning in recent weeks, Ferguson said.

It's possible the new variant appears to infect the young the most because the research was conducted at a time when there were lockdowns but schools remained opened, the scientists said.