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New coronavirus variant 'may be more deadly', UK warns



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

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

Patrick Vallance, the UK’s Chief Scientific Adviser, said the new variant could be around 30 percent more deadly, although he stressed that only sparse data was available.

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

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

“You will see that across the different age groups as well, a similar sort of relative increase in the risk,” added the scientific adviser.

Race to vaccinate

Britain is in the grip of its third and worst wave of the virus, recording record daily death tolls that have pushed the total figure 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 levelled off, hospitals are in danger of becoming overwhelmed and the government is in a race to vaccinate as many vulnerable people as possible.

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

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

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

 



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