Deadly UK Coronavirus Variant Raises Concerns

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UK Coronavirus variant termed more deadly
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On Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the UK coronavirus variant to be more deadly and transmissible than the previous strain.

Since it was first identified in Kent, UK, the mutated strain has caused a huge surge in the number of cases and hospitalizations. With over 97,000 deaths the country has the highest death toll in Europe. Moreover, cases of the new variant have sprung up in over 60 countries across the world. On Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson deemed the UK coronavirus variant as more deadly and transmissible than the previous strain.

In addition to spreading more quickly, it also now appears that there is some evidence that the new variant… may be associated with a higher degree of mortality

Boris Johnson, UK Prime Minister

UK’s deadly new coronavirus variant was first announced to the world in December of last year. Called B.1.1.7, the variant is largely responsible for driving the second, and now the third wave, in the country. According to the country’s health authorities, the new variant is spreading at a much faster rate than previous strains. Not only have hospitalizations doubled, but the number of deaths has also risen 16% over the past week.

UK variant 30% More Deadly

Johnson’s statement was based on the results of a recent report; conducted by the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG). The report looked at studies conducted by Public Health England, Imperial College London, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and the University of Exeter. The report found the new variant to be about 30% more deadly, and 56% more transmissible than other strains. Although the studies included a few hundred deaths, researchers followed them from infection till death.

If you took … a man in their 60s, the average risk is that for 1,000 people who got infected, roughly 10 would be expected to, unfortunately, die with the virus. With the new variant, for 1,000 people infected, roughly 13 or 14 people might be expected to die

UK’s chief science adviser, Patrick Vallance

However, Patrick Vallance, UK’s chief science adviser states there is no evidence that those infected with the new variant have a higher risk of dying compared to those infected with the original strain. Therefore, the lack of evidence of an increase in hospitalizations means the results still remain uncertain.

‘Realistic Possibility’

Although the report raises concerns about the virus, evidence suggests that the current vaccines are effective against the new variant. Furthermore, the country’s vaccination program seems on track. According to the press statement, around 5.4 million people in the country have already received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

It is a realistic possibility that the new UK variant increases the risk of death, but there is considerable remaining uncertainty.

Professor Neil Ferguson, NERVTAG

Reference:

Department of Health and Social Care. “NERVTAG Paper on COVID-19 Variant of Concern B.1.1.7.” GOV.UK, GOV.UK, 22 Jan. 2021, www.gov.uk/government/publications/nervtag-paper-on-covid-19-variant-of-concern-b117.

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