New strain 'more infectious than Delta' under investigation

·3-min read

A new form of the Covid-19 Delta variant — which scientists say is more infectious than the common Delta variant — is under investigation.

A new UK study revealed on Thursday the AY.4.2 variant, which is being monitored as a variant under investigation, had increased transmissibility and was apparently less likely to display any symptoms.

The analysis by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI is based on swab tests taken at home by over 100,000 people in the UK between October 19 and November 5, and showed the AY.4.2 mutation made up 11.8 per cent of infections during the testing period.

A woman wearing a black coat and pink scarf wearing a red mask walking past a sign saying: 'Coronavirus cases are rising in London'.
There are concerns about increased transmissibility in the AY.4.2 variant. Source: PA via AAP

Only 33 per cent of people carrying AY.4.2 strain showed typical coronavirus symptoms such as a persistent cough, loss or change in taste and smell, and a fever. 

Forty-six per cent of people carrying the Delta variant showed these symptoms. 

School-aged children have highest rate of infection

According to the long-running Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission (REACT) study, Covid-19 infections are now at 1.57 per cent.

Professor Paul Elliott, director of the REACT program from Imperial’s School of Public Health, said although hospitalisations and deaths were lower than previous peaks, infections remained very high. 

"A higher rate of prevalence was recorded at most ages and most regions of the country compared to data from a month earlier, most notably in school-aged children," Prof Elliott said.

School-aged children had the highest rates of infection with a prevalence of 4.95 per cent in those aged five to 12 and 5.21 per cent in those aged 13 to 17.

"It is possible that the prevalence rate could rise once again now that children have returned to school following half-term," Prof Elliott said.

A person wearing red shirt being given a Covid vaccination.
People in the UK are being urged to book in for booster jabs. Source: Sipa via AAP

"Though this could be at least partially offset by as many people as possible having booster jabs when offered and those aged twelve years or over having the vaccine."

Dr Jenny Harries, the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said this round of the study served as a reminder of the effectiveness of the vaccines against Covid-19. 

"As we approach winter, it is vital that everyone eligible comes forward for their jabs – whether that’s their first dose, second or a booster," Dr Harries said.

"Remember that anyone over 12 years old is now able to receive their first jab, and boosters will soon be offered to everyone over 40. Please do take up that offer to ensure your immunity does not wane."

'Storm of infection'

The study findings come as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson warms of a "storm of infection" sweeping across Europe.

"We don’t yet know the extent to which this new wave will sweep up on our shores but history shows that we cannot afford to be complacent," Mr Johnson said in a press conference on Monday (local time).

“Those countries with lower vaccination rates have tended to see bigger surges in infection and in turn been forced to respond with harsher measures, while those countries with higher vaccination rates have so far fared better.

“This shows us once again that if we want to control the epidemic here in the UK, and if we want to avoid new restrictions on our daily lives, we must all get vaccinated as soon as we are eligible.”

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