Hyderabad: The new strain of the SARS-CoV-2, which was detected by geneticists from United Kingdom early December, has the potential to prolong the hardships of the pandemic well into 2021, if its possible proliferation in India is not nipped in the bud.
The initial studies and mathematical modelling by top researchers, including a pre-print from scientists of Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases (CMMID), London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), over the potential impact of the new strain has painted a rather grim picture.
The LSHTM researchers, whose work is available in pre-print online at CMMID repository, indicated that due to the increased transmissibility of the new strain of the coronavirus, ‘existing control measures are likely to be less effective and countries may require stronger proactive interventions to achieve the same level of control’.
The affinity of the new strain B 1.1.7 to the younger population, especially children also will challenge plans of officials to open schools across the country. “We found that regardless of control measures, all regions are projected to experience a subsequent wave of Covid-19 cases and deaths, peaking in spring 2021 for London, South East and East of England, and in summer 2021 for the rest of England. In the absence of substantial vaccine rollout, cases, hospitalisations, ICU admissions and deaths in 2021 may exceed those in 2020. School closures in January 2021 may delay the peak and decrease the total burden in the short term,” the LSHTM researchers said.
Associate Professor of Epidemiology, Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health, Dr Bill Hanage described the study as ‘very interesting preprint on epidemiology of B 1.1.7’.
Dr Hanage on Twitter said “What does this mean? Well, it provides more evidence that this really is more transmissible. The take home message is that it is harder to control. I think the consequences for children need to be thought about more. If kids remain 50 per cent as susceptible as adults, but the infectiousness is that much higher, that means they’re more likely to get infected and transmit, with consequences for schools. Especially schools without masks or other mitigation.”
The UK researchers also warned of larger epidemic waves. “We found no evidence that the new variant is associated with higher disease severity, but without strengthened controls, there is a clear risk that future epidemic waves may be larger – and hence associated with greater burden, than previous waves,” they warned.
The study said that the need of the hour could be accelerated vaccine administration. “It may be necessary to greatly accelerate vaccine rollout to have an appreciable impact in suppressing the resulting disease burden.”
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