The new and more infectious variant of Covid-19 first found in Kent will become the world’s dominant strain, the director of the UK’s genetic surveillance programme said.
The variant has been detected across Britain, in more than 50 countries and “it’s going to sweep the world, in all probability”, Professor Sharon Peacock from the Covid-19 Genomics UK (Cog-UK) Consortium told the BBC’s Newscast podcast.
The new variant initially led to London and parts of southern and eastern England being rushed into Tier 4 restrictions prior to Christmas, before stricter measures were introduced throughout the UK.
Analysis of the variant, known as B117, suggests it is up to 70% more transmissible than the previous strain that was dominant in the UK.
Prof Peacock, professor of public health and microbiology at the University of Cambridge, said transmissibility was likely to cause scientists difficulties for years to come.
“Once we get on top of it [Covid-19] or it mutates itself out of being virulent – causing disease – then we can stop worrying about it,”she said.
“But I think, looking in the future, we’re going to be doing this for years. We’re still going to be doing this 10 years down the line, in my view.”