UK variant of coronavirus may be more deadly: Boris Johnson
(Sourced from PTI)
The United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday said early evidence suggests that the new coronavirus variant that was detected in England toward the end of last year may be associated with a higher degree of mortality. It was already classified as a more highly-transmissible variant but its risk level was so far not believed to be any greater than the original strain.
"It is largely the impact of this new variant that means the National Health Service is under so much intense pressure," Johnson said in his address at a virtual briefing from 10 Downing Street in London. The new variant was first discovered in Kent, south-east England, and spread rapidly through London and then across other regions of the UK.
"There is evidence that there is an increased risk for people who have the new variant, compared to the old variant," said Sir Patrick Vallance, the government's Chief Scientific Advisor who joined Johnson at the briefing. He, however, stressed that the data is "uncertain."
Based on preliminary data briefing by scientists at the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), Johnson admitted that although the new strain seems deadlier, the two vaccines administered in the UK, Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca, are effective against all variants. "All current evidence shows both vaccines remain effective against the old and new coronavirus variant," he said.
Vallance suggested that for a man in his 60s, the risk of death with the new variant is 13 in 1,000 rather than the original 10 in 1,000, making it about 30 percent more dangerous. But he pointed out that people who have been vaccinated, and people who have previously been infected with the original variant appear to be immune to the new variant.
Vallance also stressed the importance of people strictly following the lockdown rules to keep the infections under control. Johnson sought to highlight the "unprecedented" effort underway with the vaccination program, which has now covered 5.4 million people with their first dose of the two-dose vaccines, with 400,000 new doses delivered in the last 24 hours alone. UK's death toll from coronavirus is currently 95,981.