New Covid strain: What are the symptoms?

 Illness created by mutant virus ‘indistinguishable’ from that of other variants, says scientist

Rory Sullivan
Tuesday 22 December 2020 22:03
Comments
Boris Johnson fails to guarantee reopening of schools in January
Leer en Español

The surge of a new coronavirus strain in the south-east of England has sparked concern globally, after Boris Johnson said it could be spreading up to 70 per cent faster than the original version.

Many European countries consequently placed travel restrictions on the UK on Sunday, with dozens of other countries further afield following suit on Monday, including India, Kuwait and Peru.

France’s decision to stop accompanied freight from travelling across the Channel for at least two days has proved the largest challenge for the UK, as businesses warn about potential food supply shortages.

The new Covid-19 variant has certainly caused a lot of upheaval and has left ministers scrambling to resolve the travel chaos. But what do we know the symptoms?

Scientists have confirmed that the mutant coronavirus, dubbed VUI-202012/01, does indeed have a higher transmission rate than other forms of the virus.  

Peter Horby, chairman of New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), confirmed this on Monday, saying the variant “does have a transmission advantage over other virus variants that are currently in the UK”.

Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, also said that the mutated version is “clearly” being transmitted faster than others.

Importantly, Mr Vallance added that the new Covid-19 variant was not causing more serious illness than other versions of the disease.

Speaking on Monday afternoon, the scientific adviser said there is “no evidence that the disease course is any different”.

This view was corroborated by Professor Chris Jones, Wales’ deputy chief medical director at a Welsh government conference.

Prof Jones said: "We don't know for certain that asymptomatic people will demonstrate this variant but there is absolutely no reason to think that they would not.

"At the moment the evidence is that the illness created by this virus variant is indistinguishable from the previous Covid-19 illness that we recognise.

"So I would assume that people would be just as likely to be asymptomatic as before.”

The new highly-contagious coronavirus strain was first detected in September but did not become widespread until November - during England’s national lockdown.

Since early November it has shown “exponential growth”, according to Nervtag, the advisory group on new respiratory viruses.

Given the speed of its transmission, Mr Vallance said it was likely that coronavirus restrictions in England “will need to be increased in some places in due course, not reduced”.

Although  VUI-202012/01 is now most heavily concentrated in London and other areas of southeast England which are now under the new tier 4 restrictions, it has also been detected elsewhere in the UK.

Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford said on Monday that there were more than 600 cases of the new Covid-19 variant in Wales, adding that this is “almost certainly a significant underestimation’.

Other cases have also been confirmed in places such as Australia, Denmark and Gibraltar.  

Additional reporting by agencies 

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in