Published:January 21, 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(21)00150-1

Viola Priesemann Rudi Balling Melanie M Brinkmann Sandra Ciesek Thomas Czypionka Isabella Eckerle Giulia Giordano Claudia Hanson Zdenek Hel Pirta Hotulainen Peter Klimek Armin Nassehi Andreas Peichl
Matjaz Perc Elena Petelos Barbara Prainsack Ewa Szczurek

COVID-19 cases are very high across Europe. Current measures are not reducing virus spread sufficiently, and new SARS-CoV-2 variants are emerging. The B.1.1.7 and B1.351 variants, first identified in the UK and South Africa, respectively, have spread to many European countries.

Although the biological properties of these variants are yet to be characterised, epidemiological data suggest they have a higher transmissibility than the original variant.

These viral properties could increase the effective reproduction number R in the population. In the case of B.1.1.7, estimates suggest R could increase from 1 to about 1.4 with no change in population behavior.

If true, many countries that have succeeded in reducing R to 1 or less will be confronted with a novel wave of viral spread despite the current measures.

Once a more contagious variant has established itself, stabilising the number of new infections will become increasingly difficult.

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