Coronavirus: New UK strain 'increases R number by up to 0.7', most common in under 20
The new SARS-CoV-2 variant increases the reproduction or 'R' number by between 0.4 and 0.7 and is "growing rapidly".
If the number is above 1.0 it means each person with the virus will pass it on to more than one other person; the UK's latest R number has been estimated at between 1.1 and 1.3.
On New Year's Day, England recorded its highest number of cases yet, with a jump of 50,746 recorded in 24 hours.
Prof Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London, which conducted the study, said the new B.1.1.7 variant "has substantially higher transmissibility than previous SARS-CoV-2 viruses" circulating in the UK.
"This will make control more difficult and further accentuates the urgency of rolling out vaccination as quickly as possible," he said.
Hospitals in the UK are now dealing with more Covid-19 patients than they were during April's peak, with pressures already being felt across the NHS. ■