The latest discovered variant of the coronavirus does not appear to cause more severe illness than other variants, according to a matched study by Public Health England. Scientists say the new variant can spread more rapidly. According to the study, there was no significant difference in the likelihood of reinfection with the new variant as compared with the other variants.
Under the study, researchers compared 1,769 people infected with the new variant with 1,769 who had what they described as “wild-type” virus. The two groups were matched 1:1 on the basis of age, sex, area of residence and time of testing.
Of the 42 people who were admitted to hospital, 16 were infected with the new variant while 26 cases had wild-type infection, according to the study. In terms of fatality, there were 12 deaths in variant cases compared to 10 deaths in wild-type cases.
“Preliminary results from the cohort study found no statistically significant difference in hospitalisation and 28-day case fatality between cases with the variant and wild-type comparator cases,” the study said.
The study, however, added that the “secondary attack rate”, or the proportion of contacts of confirmed cases that develop disease themselves, was higher in people infected with the new variant.
The new variant found in England in mid-December, led to other countries imposing travel restrictions to the United Kingdom. Several other countries have reported variants, including Pakistan, where the three cases were confirmed on Tuesday.