Public Health

The More Transmissible U.K. COVID-19 Variant Could Make the Pandemic a Lot Worse

Ramp up the vaccinations now!


Researchers in the United Kingdom identified a new variant of the coronavirus earlier this month—one that appears to be around 56 percent more transmissible than the more common strains that have been afflicting humanity for the past year. While we have seen no evidence that this strain causes more severe illness, it could nevertheless ramp up the deleterious consequences of the pandemic dramatically.

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine epidemiologist Adam Kucharski offers some simple calculations to illustrate why a COVID-19 variant that is 50 percent more transmissible is likely to be a bigger problem than a variant that is 50 percent more deadly.

Kucharski begins by assuming that the basic reproduction number (R0) of COVID-19—that is, the number of people on average to whom an infected person will pass along the disease—is 1.1. If R0 is above 1.0, the virus will continue to spread. When R0 is below 1.0, the virus will stop spreading. As it happens, the R0 for the U.S. has indeed been hovering around 1.1 recently.

Kucharski then assumes an infection fatality rate (IFR) of 0.8 percent. While calculated IFRs vary considerably among the various states, this assumption is similar to Indiana's roughly calculated IFR of 0.73 percent in late November.

So assuming an R0 of 1.1, an IFR of 0.8 percent, a generation time of 6 days and 10,000 infected people, Kucharski calculates that we would expect 129 eventual new fatalities after a month of spread. Increase the IFR by 50 percent, and that changes to 193 new fatalities after a month. Keep the IFR at 0.8 percent and increase transmissibility by 50 percent, and the number of new fatalities after a month jumps to 978.

Those are just illustrative calculations. Kucharski's key message is that "an increase in something that grows exponentially (i.e. transmission) can have far more effect than the same proportional increase in something that just scales an outcome (i.e. severity)."

In a preliminary and not yet peer-reviewed study, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine epidemiologist Nick Davies and his colleagues warn, "The increase in transmissibility is likely to lead to a large increase in incidence, with COVID-19 hospitalisations and deaths projected to reach higher levels in 2021 than were observed in 2020." But there is a way to blunt a resurgent pandemic: vaccination. "It may be necessary to greatly accelerate vaccine roll-out to have an appreciable impact in suppressing the resulting disease burden," they conclude.

Since the new more transmissible variant has already spread outside of the U.K., it is unlikely to spare the U.S. Our public health authorities need to "stop dawdling and make sure COVID-19 vaccines are available to everyone sooner rather than later."

NEXT: The CDC's Rules Let Teachers, Lawyers, Media Jump to the Front of the COVID Vaccine Line

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  1. Die in a fire, Ronald

    1. Can't contain Corona-chan's love for (YOU)!

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    3. WE MUST PANIC MOAR!!!!!

  2. We need moar testing!

    1. tRuMp kiLLeD 370,000 wiTh fiSH tAnK clEanEr aNd hArMfUl aDviCE.

  3. One point twenty one gigawatts?!?

    I suspect that's the same reaction you get when you scare monger people with "56 percent more transmissible"

  4. SleepyJoe will introduce a new variant of lockdowns.

    1. We can lockdown 56% more than last time.

      1. Better make it 57%, just to be sure.

        1. Nah, we'll have to nuke ‘em From orbit.

          That's the only way to be sure.

        2. 57% more lockdowns in all 57 states

  5. Typical virus, mutates to something that transmits faster, but is less deadly.

    1. So the moral justification for lockdowns has increased?

      1. Time to double down, really get serious. No more mr. nice guy.
        SleepyJoe will show us the way!

  6. The more the Communist Chinese Virus acts like every other virus, the more the fascists want to act like it has never happened before.

    1. To be fair, most humans can't remember what happened last year. And most college students are sure history began last year.

      1. Year Zero, bitches! Get ready for some serious purges lockdowns.
        As beloved Comrade Saloth Sâr always said, "If you wish to live exactly as you please, the Angkar will put aside a small piece of land for you".

  7. Now run the models for everyone under 60, with IFR values ranging from 0.4% down to, well, almost zero.

  8. Is it still non-lethal for healthy individuals <60 years old? More recovered people means that herd immunity is closer, right? The hospitals are crowded with people in the 18 to 49 yrs. range. Why? Answer: fear. What does this article provide? Answer: fear.

    1. Natural immunity? What are you crazy? Everybody knows if you don't get a government mandated needle stuck in your arm every time somebody somewhere sneezes you're toast.

  9. It's a bioweapon and a hoax at the same time!!1!!!!!11!one!!!

    1. It’s two! Two mints in one.
      (You have to be an old fart to know what that was about.)

      1. It's a dessert topping AND a floor wax!

      2. Those twins were a pair. And a golden drop of Retsyn.

      3. Which of the Doublemint twins did you want to do?

        1. You may be a bit late, since one of them is a grandma.

            1. I went and looked them up. There’s been more than one pair. The first started before I was born.

        2. If we are talking twins, the Coors light twins were the hottest.

    2. Woah, I always figured Sarc was a cud-chewing bien pensant, but here he is going all Coast-to-Coast on us.

      1. More like making fun of people who listen to George. You know. People like you.

        1. We don't get Coast-to-Coast up here in Mooseland, but I'll take your word that you only listen to it to make fun of the people. *wink-wink*

  10. >> identified a new variant of the coronavirus

    Justin Time too. Everyone was coming around to how the old variant was nonsense.

  11. "More Transmissible U.K. COVID-19 Variant"

    Whatever we do, we must absolutely not restrict travel from the UK to the US. Our benefactor Charles Koch's vision of open borders must not be put on hold for even one day.

    If this variant is that alarming, we should respond with more lockdowns and mask mandates.


    1. Stuffing your factories with underpaid illegals actually prevents Covid transmission.
      It's a scientific fact.

  12. Companies should have ramped up production before it was approved, so there would be enough doses right away.

    1. You are a sharp business man. Always make plenty of product before you know if it works or will be approved.

    2. They planned to make enough for every American once approved, but early polls (months ago) indicated there’d be no rush to get vaccinated as long as lockdown and mask mandates continued. So manufacturers were allowed to share with other countries, until demand picked up.

  13. So once again Ron regurgitates the latest fear mongering bullshit from the Top Men. The only thing interesting about this inconsequential variant is that it is being used to impose more tyranny, something that bothers Ron not at all.

    1. Exactly. How dare Ron Bailey the science correspondent actually report on scientific events regarding the coronavirus. His reporting should always be performed with a particular narrative in mind. If reporting facts about coronavirus could help tyrants impose lockdowns, then Mr. Bailey should censor himself and refuse to inform his readers about it. That is what responsible journalists do.

      1. Well the "facts" to date appear to be little more than speculation at this point. And it would be nice if a libertarian website actually posted articles with a least some connection to libertarianism.

        1. How is this article opposed to libertarianism? Are you suggesting that we should strive to have less information with which to conduct ourselves through this, whatever each of us think it is?

          1. Are you suggesting Ron provides information?

          2. Well, this virus information that actually means very little, is premature (like all the scary stories) and has no real novel properties any more than mutating influenza. But double down now, cause that's fun and seems to make you feel better...

          3. How about we wait for ACTUAL info? Ron is relying on people who have either been amazingly wrong OR have admitted to lying to us for months now. Perhaps some dubious review of claims is called for...

  14. OT - To get away from depressing topics, sort of...

    Vagina Monologues cancelled at Cornell due to lack of wokeness. Yes, they are officially not crazy enough.

    “The limitations of the script, namely that it equates having a vagina with female identity, and the requirement by Eve Ensler that it remain unchanged, leaves us with an incomplete play that doesn’t honor the experiences of trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people. It is thus hurtful, harmful and exclusionary to folks with these identities"

    1. It feels icky to refer in this context to "the revolution eating its own," but isn't that metaphorically correct?

      1. It is correct, and a whole lotta fun.

    2. It’s as if they’re having a Who Can Be The Most Batshit Crazy contest or something.

    3. The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long. Let it burn.

      1. A solid rule for the last 100 years is that the cultural paradigms found in universities today become the dominant paradigms of the general culture within 25 years.

        We're in for a rough ride.

        1. It's even worse than Demolition Man said it would be

    4. Why don’t they just invite Caitlin Jenner to join the vagina monologues- problem solved.. oh yeah, he’s a Trumper...

      1. I meant SHE!

  15. The new covid strain is likely to further reduce the time before herd immunity occurs, which occurs when two thirds of a community, county or state has been infected (via the virus and/or vaccine).

    Studies have found 3 – 10 times more Americans were infected with covid (than have tested positive), including a recent study finding 4 times more Texans had been infected.

    According to the Allegheny County Health Dept, 33.8% of residents in Sewickley Heights (one of the wealthiest suburban Pittsburgh townships) have tested positive for covid.

    And according to leftwing lockdown lovers at Bloomberg/Hopkins, counties with the highest rates of people testing positive for covid
    (and most likely to be closest to achieving herd immunity) are:
    Crowley, CO – 27.4%
    Norton, KS – 21.6%
    Lincoln, AR – 20.7%
    Bon Homme, SD – 20.6%
    Dewey, SD – 20.6%
    Chattahoochee, GA – 20.4%
    Buffalo, SD – 19.9%
    Trousdale, TN – 19.2%
    Lake, TN – 18.4%
    Buena Vista, IA – 18.2%
    Dakota, NE – 17.2%
    Eddy, ND – 17.1%
    Foster, ND – 16.9%
    Ellsworth, KS – 16.3%
    Jackson, AR – 16.3%
    Lafayette, FL – 16.2%
    Childress, TX – 16.2%
    Seward, KS – 16.0%
    Nobles, MN – 15.9%
    Lee, AR – 15.5%
    Alfalfa, OK – 15.3%
    Big Horn, MT – 15.2%
    Menominie, WI – 15.1%
    Morton, ND – 14.9%
    Ford, KS – 14.9%
    Walsh, ND – 14.8%
    Finney, KS – 14.7%
    Logan, CO – 14.7%
    Hale, TX – 14.6%
    Sheridan, KS – 14.6%
    Stutsman, ND – 14.6%
    Pawnee, KS – 14.5%
    Crocket, TX – 14.3%
    Texas, OK – 14.1%
    Burleigh, ND – 14.1%
    Wayne, TN – 14.1%
    Aurora, SD – 14.0%
    Nelson, ND – 14.0%
    (data as of 12/23/2020)

    1. States with the highest covid rate (i.e. people testing positive) are:
      ND – 12.0%
      SD – 11.0%
      WI – 8.7%
      IA – 8.7%
      NE – 8.4%
      UT – 8.3%
      TN – 8.3%
      RI – 7.7%
      ID – 7.6%
      MT – 7.5%
      WY – 7.5%
      IL – 7.4%
      KS – 7.3%
      IN – 7.3%
      MN – 7.3%
      AR – 7.1%
      NV – 7.1%
      OK – 7.1%
      AL – 7.0%

      But since far covid has infected far more people (likely 3 - 6 times more people in the past five months) than have tested positive for covid, increasingly more counties and states are likely to attain herd immunity in the next several weeks or months.

  16. "There comes a time when a man must spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats."
    -H.L. Mencken

  17. "Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty."
    -Thomas Jefferson

  18. I am very skeptical that these vaccines are going to be as effective as they seemed to be in the trials, esp as the virus continues to mutate. They may very well be essentially useless by the time the average Joe or Jane can get one.

    1. Of course they won’t be as effective.
      The trials were occurring in North America when the weather was nice and there was little coronavirus community spread. There was only a small difference between the control group and vaccine group.

      In winter time, expect a real test in a much larger group of vaccinated people in naturally crowded homes and businesses if the vaccine is really effective, we’ll know by March.

  19. Or the UK/SA/CA more transmissible variants will ramp up population immunity faster so the vaccine is an afterthought.

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  21. First, I'm not certain where Indiana's infection fatality rate of 0.73%, cited in the article, comes from. I live in Indiana and watch the governor's press conferences every week. The last-cited IFR for Indiana is 0.26% for non-institutionalized persons.

    It's likely that this number would be the one to consider relevant, as nursing home residents are being vaccinated as we speak, so presumably they wouldn't be affected by this new virus variant because they will have been vaccinated by the time it becomes prevalent here.

    Second, a more transmissible variant of the virus is likely to be less virulent. Less severe mutations of a virus often become the dominant strains because they don't make people very sick, so people who contract the the virus go on with the their lives as normal, thereby spreading it to more people. Strains of a virus the cause severe illness don't spread as well because people with these variants stay home, or in the the worst cases die.

    Of course, the UK has a huge number of experts peddling lockdowns as the one and only solution to this disease, even though the numbers themselves show they're not working and the WHO has advised against them. So, I would expect the UK experts to make the grimmest possible predictions to justify still more restrictions on civil liberties.

  22. I wouldn't listen to a single thing the UK has to say on any of this. They're the biggest paddlers of pandemic lies on the planet. They've decided to make 1984 a reality play and they can go fuck themselves.

    Also, Ron seems to mix up variant and strain. Two different things. For those who want a really good run down about it go to and seek out Dr. Racaniello's video on it. He's about had it with all these pieces of shits in media who keep ramping up the fear mongering.

    Seriously. May they all rot in hell for perpetuating one of the great health scares in history.

  23. Prediction: in a couple of months from now when the CDC has the more or less official final numbers ion 2020 mortality in the United States, the total mortality rate from all causes will be barely higher than it was in 2019, and it will be completely in line with the gradual upward trend in the country’s mortality that started about 7 or 8 years ago.

  24. more transmissible but less harmful as all viruses do per experts.

    But everyone is focusing on teh more transmissible to scare people to get vaccine for something that is 99.8% not going to hurt you.

    Note also new studies show people not showing signs are not transmitting hence we can visit grandma now.

  25. "Researchers in the United Kingdom identified a new variant of the coronavirus earlier this month—one that appears to be around 56 percent more transmissible than the more common strains that have been afflicting humanity for the past year. While we have seen no evidence that this strain causes more severe illness, it could nevertheless ramp up the deleterious consequences of the pandemic dramatically."

    Yeah, but science tells us the more easily transmissible, the more easily survivable, so this should ratchet DOWN the panic and paranoia, but of course the MSM and governments won't let that happen...

  26. To respond to a couple of the above comments, all-cause mortality in the US can already be compared to previous years on a week-by-week basis and it's way above average. We're at over 350,000 excess all-cause deaths now - higher than the number of Covid deaths, which you would expect owing to collateral damage of people not seeking care for other conditions, stress, suicide, etc.

    And, right, a disease that's 99.74 percent survivable (using the Indiana study I cited above) isn't the worst disease that's ever come along, but it's 2.5 times more deadly than seasonal flu across all ages while being much more deadly than that for people over 65.

    It's understandable that people want to write off all health advice because the experts pivot between saying "follow the science" and invoking speculation, depending which supports their narrative. They've failed us miserably. But the fact is that Covid has killed a lot of people and it's killing more daily. US death numbers may be off by a small amount due to reporting errors or chicanery, as is so often alleged, but the total excess deaths show you that the Covid numbers are in the ballpark.

    No, we don't need lockdowns. They don't work. Look at the UK's deaths per million population - higher than the US despite crippling lockdowns. Same for Spain, Belgium, Italy. But we do need to practice good public health practices - be very careful of the elderly, avoid crowds, stay as far apart as possible, wash hands often.

    The truth is in the middle. Covid isn't a hoax, but it also isn't the end of the world. The CDC actually got it right back in March when they realized that there was already community spread and we had to practice sensible mitigation rather than pretending we could arrest the virus by locking down. But then the politicians took over and took us down this road that's created a huge political divide where there shouldn't even be one.

  27. Although covid appears 2 - 3 times deadlier than the typical flu, the vast majority of covid deaths have occurred among the oldest and sickest, most of whom were already in their last year of life.

    While everyone compares covid to the 1918 Spanish flu (which was far deadlier, and most victims were under 50 and healthy), the 1957/58 flu pandemic and the 1968 Hong Kong flu pandemic both had higher mortality rates (than covid) for Americans under 65.

    But schools and businesses weren't shut down in 1957/58 or 1968 (when I was in fifth grade), and there was no socially distancing or mask mandates either. Nobody freaked out either.

    1. You make good points, as always. The concept of locking healthy people in their homes to stop a moderately bad disease is a form of group-think modeled after what the Chinese did. And I've heard others say as well that masks weren't worn in the 57-58 or 68 flu epidemics, but they were used widely in the earlier Spanish Flu, based on photos I've seen. To me, a private business is within its rights to require a mask to enter its premises. No one seems to know for certain how effective a mask is, but it seems logical to me that it does at least some good if it stops droplets emitted through talking, coughing, sneezing, etc. Masks are almost certainly not a panacea but if they save even a few vulnerable people's lives, I'm glad to wear one. They are far preferable to closing businesses and wrecking people's lives.

  28. Several reasons why Covid has been so deadly is because most Americans are living longer than ever before, 10% of Americans are over 70, and 10% of Americans are severely obese.

    In past decades, there were fewer old folks and fewer obese folks.

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