There is “some evidence” that the new Covid-19 variant first detected in Kent is more deadly than previous strains of the virus, Boris Johnson said on Friday.
The Prime Minister told a Downing Street press briefing: “I must tell you that we have been informed today that in addition to spreading more quickly, it appears that there is some evidence that the new variant that was first identified in London and the South East may be associated with a higher degree of mortality.”
It comes after the UK recorded more than 1,000 new coronavirus deaths for the fifth time in seven days.
Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s chief scientific adviser, said that there is there “is evidence that there is an increase risk for those who have the new variant compared to the [original] virus”.
But he said there was “increasing evidence” that vaccines would be effective against the new variant.
Sir Patrick said the coronavirus variant which emerged in Kent is “a common variant comprising a significant number of cases” and transmits up to 70 per cent more easily than the original virus.â¨
He told a Downing Street press conference: “We think it transmits between 30 pre cent and 70 per cent more easily than the old variant. We don’t yet understand why that is the case.â¨
“It doesn’t have a difference in terms of age distribution … it can affect anybody at any age, similarly to the original virus.”â¨
He added that among people who have tested positive for Covid-19, there is “evidence that there is an increased risk” of death for those who have the new variant compared with the old virus.â¨
With the original virus, he said that "if you took a man in their 60s, the average risk is that for a thousand people who got infected, roughly 10 would be expected to unfortunately die … with the new variant, for a thousand people infected, roughly 13 or 14 people might be expected to die.
“That’s the sort of change for that sort of age group.”
He added: “I want to stress that there’s a lot of uncertainty around these numbers and we need more work to get a precise handle on it, but it obviously is of concern that this has an increase in mortality as well as an increase in transmissibility, as it appears of today.”
Sir Patrick also cautioned that this is based on evidence which is “not yet strong” and there is “no real evidence of an increase in mortality” among those hospitalised by the variant.
â¨“These data are currently uncertain and we don’t have a very good estimate of the precise nature or indeed whether it is an overall increase, but it looks like it is,” he added.â¨The number of Covid-19 patients in hospital in England stood at 33,412 as of 8am on Friday January 22, according to the latest figures from NHS England.
This is slightly below the record 34,336 patients on January 18, and up just 0.1 per cent on a week ago.