Story at a glance
- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there is “some evidence” the new variant is associated with a higher degree of mortality.
- The preliminary evidence is still being assessed by scientists on the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, which advises the British government.
- Officials said the strain could be about 30 percent more deadly.
British officials say the highly transmissible coronavirus variant first found in the United Kingdom may be more deadly than previous strains.
“We’ve been informed today that in addition to spreading more quickly, it also now appears that there is some evidence that the new variant, the variant that was first identified in London and the southeast, may be associated with a higher degree of mortality,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said during a news conference Friday.
The evidence is still being assessed by scientists on the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, which advises the British government.
The variant that was found in southern England in December, known as B.1.1.7., is far more infectious than the original coronavirus strain, with some studies suggesting it is 30-70 percent more infectious.
Johnson noted that the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccines being used in the U.K. still appear to remain effective against both the old and new strains.
England’s Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance emphasized the evidence is still preliminary.
“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 a concern that this has an increase in mortality as well as an increase in transmissibility as it appears of today,” Vallance said during the news conference.
Officials said the strain could be about 30 percent more deadly. Vallance said that among 1,000 men 60 years or older, the original virus strain would kill 10, while the new variant would kill 13 or 14.
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