England in lockdown: On rapid spread of COVID-19 variant

The rapid spread of the new COVID-19 variant should alert other countries to remain vigilant

There is evidence that the earlier lockdown was effective in containing the previously predominant strain, suggesting that the new variant grew in absolute terms. The rapid spread of the new variant even during the previous lockdown might not reflect a general failure of control measures but highlights the inherent nature of the new variant to rapidly spread given its higher transmissibility. That areas with slower baseline virus spread also reported a slightly reduced spread of the new variant suggests that it is indeed possible to reduce if not suppress the transmission of the new variant if the lockdown is stricter and compliance is better. It is for this reason that unlike in the previous lockdown, schools and universities too are to be closed now. The new variant appears to affect a greater proportion of individuals under 20 years. The selective spread among the young might probably be more because educational institutions were open during the previous lockdown than due to the inherent nature of the virus. Since a resurgence of the new variant is likely when the lockdown is lifted, the focus is on accelerating vaccine roll-out so that much of the population is protected and transmission is cut. The spread of new variants should alert other countries, particularly South Africa where a problematic mutation has been found, to remain vigilant.

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