The UK coronavirus variant that has wreaked havoc in the country and spread to multiple countries could eventually become the dominant strain, say experts. Professor Sharon Peacock, head of UK's genetic surveillance progragramme, has predicted that the UK coronavirus that has 'swept the country' is 'going to sweep the world, in all probability'.
Speaking at BBC's Newscast podcast, Prof Peacock said that her work sequencing variants of the virus could be required for at least 10 years. The UK COVID-19 variant that was first found in Kent has already been detected in nearly 100 countries.
First discovered in September in South-east England, the Kent B117 variant quickly spread across the country in the following months, leading the government to announce fresh lockdown rules in January.
Prof Peacock said that what really has affected the UK at the moment is transmissibility. She said that once the virus mutates itself out of being virulent then one can stop worrying about it. "But I think, looking in the future, we're going to be doing this for years. We're still going to be doing this 10 years down the line, in my view," she said.
Experts believe that the current coronavirus vaccines that were designed to battle the earlier versions of the virus could still be used for the new one, including the UK strain. However, they might not be as effective. Prof Peacock said that the vaccines approved for use in the UK appear to work well against the existing variants of the virus.
Adding that while it is normal to see new variants, only a small number have 'special features', said Prof Peacock. These features could make them more transmissible, avoid immune response, affect vaccination, and even have potential to cause more severe disease. "These are the things we are looking out for. I'd say it happens vanishingly rarely but we have to be on the lookout for it," she said.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation has recommended the use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine widely. The agency recommended the use of the Oxford vaccine even for the South African variant that might reduce its efficacy.