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ECDC says there is a lack of evidence on how bad new virus strain is

The new coronavirus strain is estimated to be 70% more transmissible than previous strains.

Image: PA Images

THERE IS A lack of evidence on how bad the new variant of the coronavirus is, or how prevalent it is outside the UK, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

However, the ECDC added that the new strain has an estimated potential to increase the reproductive number (R) by 0.4 or greater, and is estimated to be 70% more transmissible than previous strains.

Several European countries including Ireland have suspended travel from the UK in an effort to stop the spread of the new strain of the virus.

The restrictions came into effect in Ireland at midnight and will remain in place for an initial period of 48 hours before being reviewed.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the fast-moving new variant of the virus is thought to be behind a recent spike in cases in the UK.

In a threat assessment of the new strain, the ECDC said: “There is no indication at this point of increased infection severity associated with the new variant.

“While it is known and expected that viruses constantly change through mutation leading to the emergence of new variants, preliminary analysis in the UK suggests that this variant is significantly more transmissible than previously circulating variants.”

The ECDC stated that the new variant has “emerged at a time of the year when there has traditionally been increased family and social mixing”.

“There is no indication at this point of increased infection severity associated with the new variant.

“A few cases with the new variant have to date been reported by Denmark and the Netherlands and, according to media reports, in Belgium,” the ECDC noted.

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Need to control the spread

As there is “currently a lack of evidence to indicate the extent to which the new virus variant is spread outside the UK, timely efforts to prevent and control its spread are needed”, the statement noted, including the following:

  • Public health authorities and laboratories are urged to analyse and sequence virus isolates in a timely manner to identify cases of the new variant.
  • If cases infected with this new variant or other new variants of potential concern are identified, countries should notify through the Early Warning and Response System of the European Union.
  • The importance of strict adherence to non-pharmaceutical interventions according to national policies needs to be communicated to the public, in particular guidance on the avoidance of non-essential travel and social activities.
  • Suspected cases of Covid-19 reinfection should be followed up and studied.
  • With the implementation of vaccination, close monitoring of Covid-19-vaccinated individuals needs to be ensured to identify possible vaccination failure and breakthrough infections. 

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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