New super spreading Covid has been found in Yorkshire - and why Tier 3 won't stop it if it spreads

The new super spreading strain of Covid-19 has been found in Yorkshire already - and the government has explained what it means and how it led to Tier 4 in London

The new super spreading Covid strain has been found in Yorkshire
The new super spreading Covid strain has been found in Yorkshire

The new super spreading strain has the same death rate as regular Covid, as far as scientists have been able to tell so far, but it can spread much more quickly.

And the government confirmed this weekend that the new super spreading Covid strain has now reached Yorkshire.

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Currently the super spreading rate is low in Yorkshire, and can be managed by Tier 3, Chris Witty said, but if the number of super spreading cases were to rise, Tier 3 would not be enough.

Speaking at the press conference to announce Tier 4, Chief Medical Officer Chris Witty said: "If you look at the South East and London there has been a really dramatic increase in the proportion of the cases that we see that would imply that in the South East, 43% of the virus is the new variant. In east of England it’s 59% and in London 62% and those numbers have gone up very fast in the last few weeks.

“When you look at the rates of increase in hospitalisations, ie the number of people being admitted to hospital, in the areas where [the new variant] is very common, you’re seeing rates of increase of maybe 36% in East of England, 34% in London, and 28% in the South East. These are areas which have significant numbers of this new variant.

“But if you go to let’s say the North West, the North East and Yorkshire, in these areas there has been no increase in hospitalisations, they’re managing to keep things down with Tier 3, and if you look at the rates of this variant in those areas, they’re much lower. For example in Yorkshire and the Humber it is around 5%."

He went on to explain that the reason for London being put into a sudden very high level of restrictions was to try to stop the new super spreading variant from reaching other areas of the country, because Tier 3 restrictions don't work to stop the super spreading strain.

He added: "The exact numbers don’t matter but the point is if you have a low amount of this variant, the rate of increase is held by the Tiers.

“If you have a very high rate of this variant, then it is not held sufficiently by the Tiers and it is going up very rapidly and our big worry is essentially this is growing in two directions: up in terms of where it is, so it’s getting a higher and higher proportion of the cases, and if they were to go with this new variant, unwittingly, to an area which has a low prevalence and start this being seeded even more outside the high prevalence areas, that would be a significant risk to the area they went to.

"So that is the reason we are really keen that people do not go from these areas, because we will not only see it going up, but we will also see it going out to areas of the country where it is not already a problem. Because we understood this information, we advised you really do have to act at this stage.

"Otherwise every area of the country will get this very quickly and none of them will be able to hold things with Tier 3 and Tier 2 elsewhere."

The conference was held just hours before chaotic scenes were captured in London as passengers crammed onto trains to Leeds filled to capacity.