New Strain Of COVID-19 Considered 70% More Contagious

City Of London Reacts To Coronavirus

A new strain of COVID-19 has emerged in the United Kingdom, and it is 70% more transmissible than other strains of the virus. Health officials in the U.K. said that the new strain is responsible for about 60% of the recent cases in London. As a result, the country decided against easing restrictions ahead of Christmas.

John Edmunds, an epidemiologist who is part of the U.K. scientific advisory group, said that the discovery marks "the worst moment of the whole epidemic" and warned that "we will need much more severe measures to bring the incidence down."

The virus has spread beyond the U.K., with health officials in Australia and Italy reporting cases of the new strain in the past week.

While the U.K. instituted new measures to help slow the spread of the virus, other European countries have also placed restrictions on the nation. Many countries have temporarily banned travelers from the U.K., while France instituted a 48-hour suspension of freight transit across the English Channel. European Union leaders are expected to meet to discuss how to deal with the new strain of the coronavirus.

The new mutation does not appear to have any impact on the vaccines.

Former U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC that "it doesn't seem to have mutated the surface proteins of the virus in a way that they would slip past our vaccines or prior immunity. In fact, we don't think that that's the case."

"Some viruses like flu evolve their surface proteins very quickly, and that's why we need a different flu vaccine every season," said Gottlieb. "Some viruses can't really change their surface proteins, like measles. This [coronavirus] seems to fall someplace in between. It's not going to change its surface proteins very rapidly, that spike protein, but it will change it over time."

Photo: Getty Images

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