Viruses mutate all the time, which can cause them to behave differently. At the end of 2020, UK scientists discovered a variant of coronavirus that is much more contagious than the variants we had encountered so far. The UK variant has advanced rapidly and and has virtually supplanted the original virus since spring.
This article was originally published on 2 February 2021; it has been updated with new knowledge on 20 May 2021. As of June 2021 the UK coronavirus variant is called the Alpha variant.
For more information about the current situation regarding variants of the coronavirus, please see the "Variants" page on the dashboard.
There are thousands of variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The most contagious variant will ultimately gain the overhand. The UK variant’s reproduction number (R) is estimated to be 34 percent higher than the original virus. That means that this variant infects about 34 percent more people. Since spring, almost all infections in the Netherlands have been with the UK variant.
Because the UK variant is more contagious, more people have contracted the virus and more people have become ill. This also means that more people end up in hospital. It is not certain whether the UK variant also makes people more ill than the original virus or whether people die more from it. International research is being conducted on this. The RIVM follows these types of studies closely.
For each variant of coronavirus, we can only reduce the number of infections if we stick to the measures. Vaccinations ensure that people do not get sick if they do get the virus. Fortunately, the vaccines also work against the UK variant of the virus. Find out which measures are currently applicable on the page Measures.
You can read the progress of the vaccination on the page Vaccinations.