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There is some evidence the new variant of the coronavirus first identified in the UK may be up to 30% more deadly than previous variants, the UK government has said.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a Downing Street press conference on Friday that it “now appears there is some evidence the new variant may be associated with a higher degree of mortality.”
Identification of the new variant, which scientists have found to have a faster transmission rate than other variants, has coincided with a surge of deaths in the UK.
There were 1,401 recorded deaths of people who tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday in the UK.
The UK government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance stressed that while he was “confident” that the new variant was more transmissible, the evidence remained “not yet strong” and “uncertain” that it was more deadly.
However, he said the early signs that the new variant could be up to 30% more deadly.
Watch Boris Johnson on the UK coronavirus variant
Prime Minister Boris Johnson says ‘there is some evidence the UK variant of #COVID19 may be associated with a higher degree of mortality’, but adds ‘all current evidence shows both vaccines remain effective against the old and new #coronavirus variant’.https://t.co/nQXN4wOC7I pic.twitter.com/0ofRQkoHab
— Sky News (@SkyNews) January 22, 2021
Vallance said that whereas an average of 10 out of a 1,000 older people died of the old variant in the UK, this appears to have increased to 13 out of 1,000 people with the new variant.
This was reiterated by another scientific adviser to the UK government, Professor Neil Ferguson, who told ITV on Friday that: “Four groups – Imperial, LSHTM, PHE and Exeter – have looked at the relationship between people testing positive for the variant vs old strains and the risk of death.
“That suggests a 1.3-fold increased risk of death. So for 60 year-olds, 13 in 1000 might die compared with 10 in 1000 for old strains.”
However, Ferguson stressed that there is currently only limited data available on the death rates for each variant.
“The big caveat is that we only know which strain people were infected with for about 8% of deaths,” Ferguson told ITV.
Vallance told the press conference there was no evidence that the UK variant was any more resistant to existing vaccines. However, he said he was more worried about the susceptibility of the South African and Brazilian variants to the vaccines.