COVID-19 has now become entrenched on every continent, infecting over a hundred million people and counting. A consequence of this success is that the virus now has ample opportunity to mutate into strains that could be deadlier and/or more communicable than previous iterations. Of course, this is already happening, and strains like the ‘UK variant’ have already entered the lexicon of media and public health officials. And while it’s impossible to know just how many variants are out there (for one, many don’t show up on tests), three are of particular concern at the moment: B.1.1.7 (the ‘UK variant); B.1.351 (the ‘South Africa variant’); and P.1 (the ‘Brazil variant’).
How consequential are these COVID-19 variants in terms of public health measures? England’s recent experience may hold some clues – and the takeaways aren’t entirely positive.