Scientific data and information on new COVID-19 variant: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Information requested

What information do you have that concludes that the new variant is more dangerous?


Throughout the epidemic, having a clear route for synthesising scientific evidence and presenting that to Government has been important. To do this, scientific advice is provided by the Scottish Government COVID-19 Advisory Group, details of which can be found at Scottish Government COVID-19 Advisory Group - ( The Scottish Government is informed by SAGE, and its sub groups. Details can be found at: List of participants of SAGE and related sub-groups - GOV.UK ( The latest publicly available evidence from SAGE is here: Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies - GOV.UK (

The new variant which you refer to is called B.1.1.7 or VOC-202012/01 and has an unusually high number of mutations. Two mutations N501Y and 69-70del are of particular concern and details can be found here : PHE document ( and COG-UK update on SARS-CoV-2 Spike mutations of special interest.

The new variant can be transmitted more easily than other variants. More information on the estimated difference in reproduction numbers can be found in Report 42 - Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 Lineage B.1.1.7 in England: Insights from linking epidemiological and genetic data
Imperial 31 December.

Preliminary results found no statistically significant difference in hospitalisation and 28-day case fatality between cases with the variant and comparator cases. Investigation of novel SARS-CoV-2 variant (202012/01): Technical briefing 2 (

Several new analyses are consistent in reporting increased disease severity in people infected with VOC B.1.1.7 compared to people infected with non-VOC virus variants. NERVTAG stated that there is a realistic possibility that infection with VOC B.1.1.7 is associated with an increased risk of death compared to infection with non-VOC viruses. A link to the paper can be found here NERVTAG_note_on_B.1.1.7_severity_for_SAGE_77__1_.pdf ( NERVTAG has noted that there were limitations in the data available, because hospitalisation and death are lagging indicators. There is intensive work underway to verify these conclusions, and we are monitoring the evidence as it becomes available.

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