New coronavirus variant ‘may be more deadly’, warns UK

Early evidence suggests that the coronavirus variant that emerged in the UK may be more deadly and more contagious, British officials warned on Friday.

“There is some evidence that the new variant (…) may be associated with a higher mortality rate,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a Downing Street news conference.

Patrick Vallance, the UK’s Chief Scientific Adviser, said the new variant could be around 30 per cent more lethal, although he emphasized that only sparse data were available.

“There is evidence that there is an increased risk for those who have the new variant, compared to the old virus,” Vallance said.

Among men aged 60, about 10 in 1,000 would be expected to die after taking the original strain, he said, while the number rises to “13 or 14” for the new strain.

“You will see that even in different age groups, a similar type of relative increase in risk,” the scientific adviser added.

Compete to get vaccinated

The UK is in the grip of its third and worst wave of the virus, recording daily death tolls that have pushed the total figure to close to 100,000.

Another 1,401 people were announced on Friday to have died within 28 days of testing positive, bringing the total to 95,981.

More than 38,500 people were in hospital with Covid-19 – 78 percent more than during the first peak last year.

Although cases appear to have leveled off, hospitals are at risk of being overwhelmed and the government is in a race to vaccinate as many vulnerable people as possible.

Johnson said about 5.3 million people had their first jab, and the government was on track to reach its goal of vaccinating 15 million of the most vulnerable by mid-February.

Vallance said there was “growing evidence” that AstraZeneca / Oxford and the Pfizer vaccines used in the UK were both effective against the new strain.

( Jowharwith AFP)