United Kingdom COVID-19 Variant May Lead to Spikes in Cases

January 15, 2021
John Parkinson

The CDC is saying this highly contagious variant, B.1.1.7, may become the dominant strain of the virus by March.

SARS-CoV-2, B.1.1.7, or otherwise known as VOC 202012/01, which was discovered in the United Kingdom back in December may lead to a large increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the US and may become the dominant strain of the virus in the coming months, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report released today.

“The increased transmissibility of this variant requires an even more rigorous combined implementation of vaccination and mitigation measures (e.g., distancing, masking, and hand hygiene) to control the spread of SARS-CoV-2,” the CDC wrote in its report. “These measures will be more effective if they are instituted sooner rather than later to slow the initial spread of the B.1.1.7 variant.”

The B.1.1.7 variant has been spreading across the globe, but has been limited in the United States, thus far. The variant has been reported in 76 cases and discovered in 10 states. However, it is believed that the number of cases is actually much higher.

Investigators have said B.1.1.7 is more contagious than the original virus, but no determination has been made that this variant can lead to severe cases and higher mortality.

The CDC said the UK variant is spreading faster than other variants and points to B.1.1.7 potentially becoming the dominant virus in just a matter of weeks. The agency pointed to projections in its modeling data.

“In this model, B.1.1.7 prevalence is initially low, yet because it is more transmissible than are current variants, it exhibits rapid growth in early 2021, becoming the predominant variant in March,” the CDC wrote in the report.

Earlier this week, concerns over COVID-19 transmissibility prompted the CDC to require all air travelers flying into the United States to have proof of a negative COVID-19 test before being able to board for flight.

Air passengers are required to get a viral test (a test for current infection) within the 3 days before their flight to the US departs, and provide written documentation of their laboratory test result (paper or electronic copy) to the airline or provide documentation of having recovered from COVID-19.

Airlines must confirm the negative test result for all passengers or documentation of recovery before they board. If a passenger does not provide documentation of a negative test or recovery, or chooses not to take a test, the airline must deny boarding to the passenger.

This policy goes into effect on January 26.

In addition, it was reported today that the US did not have reserve doses of the BNT162b2 and mRNA-1273 COVID-19 vaccines that were supposed to be prepared for the second-dose administration of prioritized recipients earlier this week.

In fact, this stockpile was actually distributed at the end of December.