What do we now know about the British corona variant? (Yes, it is really more contagious) | NOW

The British variant of the corona virus takes care of in London overcrowded hospitals. In the Netherlands there are major concerns that this variant will spread quickly here too. We now know this about this British variant.

The British variant was first discovered in England in September. Midway december this variant was already responsible for two thirds of the infections in London. In the Netherlands, it is estimated that 2 to 5 percent of people who are now tested positive for the coronavirus are infected with the British variant.

Viruses change

It is very normal that there are variants of the corona virus. Every virus is constantly changing a little and usually changes do not affect the properties of the virus. In the British variant, one of the properties, the infectivity, has therefore changed.

England had a partial lockdown in November. We now know through research that during this lockdown the number of infections with the original variant decreased. In contrast, the number of infections with the British variant increased sharply in a number of regions, despite all measures. In London, this variant thus gained the upper hand in December.

Contacts more often positive

Patricia Bruijning, epidemiologist at UMC Utrecht, explains to NU.nl that it has now been established that the British variant is more contagious. But we don’t know how much more contagious exactly.

One of the studies that already provide indications about how much more contagious this variant is comes from the English counterpart of the RIVM, Public Health England. This organization looked at how often people who had themselves tested after having been in contact with someone infected with the corona virus, were also infected with the corona virus.

Of the 100 people who had been in contact with a person infected with the original variant of the coronavirus, 11 tested positive themselves. Of the 100 people who had been in contact with someone infected with the British variant, 15 tested positive themselves. This means that, according to this data, the British variant is about 35 percent more contagious.

However, there are also limitations to this research. For example, it is theoretically possible that people in areas where the British variant is now rapidly spreading will keep less distance with their friends and acquaintances anyway. More research is needed to make more reliable estimates. Scientists have now concluded that the British variant is between 10 and 70 percent more contagious than the original variant.

Noticeably more virus

We are also learning more and more about why people with the British variant are more contagious. Marion Koopmans explained Monday explains that people infected with the British variant produce more virus. “They really have more virus in their throat and nose.” When coughing, talking or sneezing, people infected with the British variant are therefore likely to spread more virus particles.

According to Koopmans, the complaints caused by the British variant are comparable to the complaints caused by the original variant. You will therefore not suffer more from the British variant than from the original variant.


In theory, changes can also make vaccinations against the coronavirus less effective. However, there are no indications that this is the case with the British variant. Pfizer researchers made last week known that their vaccine appears to be effective against the British variant. Additional research is still being done.

Much is still unclear about the role of children in the spread of this variant. Here you can read what we know about this.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.