Cumbria Council Update (Jan 2021) Re New Coronavirus Strain during the National Lockdown

A new variant of Coronavirus was reported, initially in the South East of England, which is thought to spread more easily than other types of the virus.

It isn’t at all unusual for viruses to mutate and form new variants, and this isn’t the first variant of Coronavirus that has been reported. However, the current evidence suggests that this new variant is more transmissible, meaning that someone infected with the new variant is more likely to pass Coronavirus on to the people they are in contact with, and the virus is able to spread more quickly through the population.

The new variant has now become the most common variant of Coronavirus in London and SE England, and concerns about the speed at which it was spreading, and the pressure that that was putting on NHS services, were one of the main reasons that government introduced Tier 4, and re-tightened restrictions over most of Christmas period. We know that the new variant has been present in Cumbria from the end of November, as it can be detected by analysing samples taken for PCR testing.

The analysis of variant type takes time, and so we don’t know quite how widespread the new variant currently is in the county. However, some genetic indicators suggest that at the beginning of January, the new strain already accounted for at least 75% of new cases in Allerdale, Carlisle and Eden, and at least 50% of new cases in Copeland, Barrow and South Lakeland. It is rapidly becoming the dominant strain in Cumbria.

The new variant:
– Causes the same symptoms as other variants, and doesn’t appear to cause more severe disease
– Can be detected by the standard Coronavirus tests (PCR and Lateral Flow Testing)

It is very likely that the currently available vaccines will also provide protection against the new variant (as the vaccines target multiple parts of the virus, most of which are unchanged in the new variant.)

The precautions we all need to take to help control the spread of the new variant are the same as for any other variant of Coronavirus described in the previous section: “Hands, Face, Space.”

However, it is worth being extra careful about all of these measures given it seems likely that the new variant spreads more easily.