The spread of the British variant of the coronavirus is fast. Research conducted by RIVM for the period 1 October 2020 to 15 January 2021 shows that completed 6% of virus samples were detectable of the British variant. In the meantime, however, the same RIVM also uses estimates that this is now ten or twelve percent of all infections.
“ There are actually two epidemics now,” says Susan van den Hof, head of the Centre for Epidemiology and Surveillance of Infectious Diseases at RIVM. “That of the old variant and that of the new one. We expect the new one to take over the entire epidemic in the coming month.”
How can a virus variant with such a small minority share grow into the most common variant in such a short time? This has to do with the higher contagiousness of the British variant. It‘s about 30 percent more contagious than the virus variant that is now the most common.
Previous British and Danish studies showed that the mutant spreads 40 to 70 percent faster than the ‘ordinary virus‘, but that seems to be a lot less.
The R-number of the currently dominant variant is, according to the RIVM estimate, at the moment about 0.9. A hundred infected people transfer the virus to 90 others. The R number of the British variant was “around 1.3 at the beginning of this month. A hundred people who have the British variant of the coronavirus pass it on to 130 other people.
The number of coronavirus infections has been decreasing for a few weeks. On 15 January, out of every hundred coronavirus infections, 94 were with the classical variant and 6 with the British variant. In this article, we stick to the most hard number available on the distribution of the British variant. With this we have carried out the calculations below.
Just about every four days, there’s a new generation of infections. On 19 January there were 93 infestations left of the calculation example of the 100 infestations from four days earlier, 85 classic and eight British.
In this way, the number of new infections per day will continue to fall until mid-February compared with 15 January. On 12 February, of the 100 infestations in this calculation example, 80 are left, 45 of the classical variant and 35 of the British. Four days later, on 16 February, the British variant is dominant for the first. The 100 infestations of 15 January are now 87, 46 of which are the British variant.
Lightning fast cover
In the last week of February, the tipping point is. The spread of the coronavirus is going to increase again On 24 February, the 100 infestations from our calculation example became 111 and on 28 February 131, with over three quarters of all cases being the British variant.
According to RIVM‘ers Van den Hof and Reusken, the infection rates will lead to a new peak in the occupation of the covid departments in hospitals and ICs in the course of March.
More is now known about the British variant. Four questions:
1. Is the spread of the British variant to stop?
According to RIVM, the R number in the United Kingdom is now 0.6, while the British variant is all-dominant. Dissemination can therefore be greatly reduced, but that has not been done by itself. In London, for example, a ban on contact with people from other households has been banned. Moreover, for days there were quite frightening images of crowded hospitals and long queues of waiting ambulances. That may have affected the extent to which people respect the corona measures. The Netherlands has the advantage that there has been a lockdown here for some time now. In the United Kingdom, the measures had just been relaxed when the British variant came to an end.
2. How many people in the Netherlands are infected with the British variant?
Of all coronavirus infections, it is estimated that 10% would now be the British variant, roughly doubling compared to last week. That would now amount to a small 3900 infestations with the British variant. The RIVM showed 107 infections with this variant between 1 October 2020 and last Friday. This happened on closer examination of 1835 positive samples.
A large number of people infected with the British variant are associated with the school in Bergschenhoek where the variant first appeared in December. Of the 750 parents, children and teachers examined, 75 were infected, slightly less than half with the British variant.
British variant has also been established in residential care centre’t Suyderhuys. GGD Fryslân assumes that 49 residents and 63 employees are infected with it. The RIVM has yet to confirm that. Furthermore, some infections have been detected at health care facilities in Amstelveen, Ermelo and Goes Also in Twente the British variant showed up.
3. How is it that this variant goes around faster?
Research researchersassume that someone who is infected transmits the virus faster and others pick it up faster. “It could be that the virus is more stable, longer on surfaces and easier to enter the cells, so fewer virus particles are needed,” says Chantal Reusken of the RIVM.
“ Studies show that people infected with this variant probably have much more virus in their throats, probably something about seventy times more,” said virologist Mariet Feltkamp (LUMC) earlier. But it could also be the receiver. “It may be that this variant requires less virus to get infected. This has to do with the fact that the British variant seems to bind to the receptor better, so it enters the cells with shorter contact.”
4. Do the vaccines also work for this variant?
“ That has been investigated and, when vaccinated, you are also protected against this variant,” said Feltkamp earlier. “The question is whether the current vaccines work well against other new variants, such as those from South Africa. There are some other subtle mutations in there.” Against the South African variant vaccines seem to protect slightly less well, she adds. “But still to an acceptable level”.