The team then predicted what the new variant would do over the next six months and built models that took different constraints into account. Without a broader roll-out of vaccines, they warned, “Cases, hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths in 2021 could exceed those in 2020.”
Apr. 23, 2020 at 8:46 am ET
Closing schools through February could buy the UK some time, the researchers noted, but lifting those additional restrictions would then result in a significant recovery in cases.
Because of the higher transmission rate, the country will require a much higher percentage of the population to get vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity. In order to reduce the peak load in intensive care units, vaccinations would have to increase from the current 200,000 to two million people per week.
“You need to be able to remove any obstacles to transmission as quickly as possible,” said Dr. Hanage.
The researchers warned that, like any model, their model was based on a number of assumptions, some of which could prove to be incorrect. For example, the rate at which infected people die from Covid-19 may continue to decline as doctors improve care for hospital patients. There are still uncertainties as to whether and by how much the new variant is more contagious in children.
Nevertheless, they wrote: “It is urgently necessary to examine which new approaches might be necessary in order to sufficiently reduce the ongoing transmission of SARS-CoV-2.”
Commenting on the new estimates, Alessandro Vespignani, director of the Network Science Institute at Northeastern University in Boston, who was not involved in the study, said: “Unfortunately, this is another turn in the plot.”