A brief update on the new coronavirus mutations, including the ‘British’, ‘South African’ and ‘Brazilian’ variants (i.e. N501Y.V1-V3), and evidence of their properties:
- There is clear evidence that the new variants are currently about 50% more transmissible, although suspected higher viral loads have not been confirmed. However, this relative advantage in transmissibility may decrease over time, as more people get infected.
- New coronavirus variants do not produce any different symptoms, and the evidence that they might be more virulent or lethal remains rather weak. In general, covid may be more severe in winter than in spring and summer (e.g. due to lower vitamin D levels).
- There is currently no evidence that new variants preferentially infect children.
- There is also no evidence that measures such as lockdowns or face masks work any better or any worse against new variants. Many places affected by new variants have seen a decrease in cases (e.g. Denmark, Portugal, the Netherlands, South Africa and the UK).
- There is some evidence of partial immune evasion by new variants, which is well known from influenza viruses and from other coronaviruses, and which may enable reinfections – with or without symptoms – in some people, and first infections in more people.
- There is also clear evidence that some of the current vaccines are less protective against some of the new variants. These vaccines may require regular updates or boosters.
- But there is no evidence that early and prophylactic treatment is any less effective against new variants, as it targets virus replication, cell entry, or disease progression.
Update: British virus variant not more deadly (SPR/PHE)
See also: Coronavirus Variants Dashboard (covariants.org)