New variant, new spread

On December 31, scientists at Imperial College London estimated a fast-spreading new COVID-19 variant had tripled its number of infections in England in November.

This indicated the virus was spreading more quickly among under-20s, in particular children of secondary school age, with asymptomatic transmission hiding the problem.

Their research also stated the reproduction or (R) number was unlikely to fall below 1 unless the government closed all schools. The UK’s R number on December 23 was between 1.1 and 1.3, which means every 10 people infected will infect between 11 and 13 other people.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control’s latest report found that “younger children appear to be less susceptible to infection, and when infected, less often lead to onward transmission than older children and adults. Educational staff and adults within the school setting are generally not seen to be at a higher risk of infection.”

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