It’s the coronavirus strain that has already ruined Christmas, now Dr Hopkins has confirmed only time will tell if this new variant will become more deadly and if it will be more resistant to the vaccine. However, it’s certainly more infectious.
Appearing on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show, on Sunday December 20, Dr Hopkins said more data is needed to determine how dangerous the new variant strain is.
She explained mutations occur all the time in viruses, with the first observation of this mutant coronavirus identified in October.
It wasn’t until early December when modellers and academics questioned why there was exponential growth in certain areas of the UK, considering the national restriction.
Noticing clusters in Kent and Medway, the new variant spread into London and parts of Essex.
“We alerted the government to this fact on Friday, and immediately, the government started to take action,” said Dr Hopkins.
When asked whether the new variant really is 70 percent more infectious, Dr Hopkins said they will be “refining estimates this week”.
At present, the estimate of transmissibility is based on modelling and the data in the past few weeks.
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However, there is clear evident that the new variant has a “higher viral load”, which increases transmissibility.
Even though the coronavirus mutant is more contagious, it’s “not quite the case” that people will become more ill because of it.
“The illness comes from the immune response,” explained Dr Hopkins, but she wanted to reiterate the importance of social distancing measures.
“The main risk of transmission are still going to be droplet transmission and aerosol transmission,” Dr Hopkins said.
She explained that an extended amount of time spent indoors with “loud voices” could increase the likelihood of transmission.
This is why she believes that the “government has made the right decision” – even if it’s “very disappointing for many”.
“The virus will not transmit unless we’re in contact with each other,” she said matter-of-factly.