There is “some evidence” that the new Covid variant first identified in the UK is more deadly than other strains, the Prime Minister has announced.
“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 that was first identified in London and the southeast may be associated with a higher degree of mortality,” Boris Johnson told a Downing Street press conference.
The new Covid strain, known as the “UK variant” in other parts of the world, likely causes around three to four more deaths per 1,000 people than the original strain.
The PM added that there was no current evidence to suggest that either the Pfizer/Biontech or Astrazeneca vaccines would not be effective against the new variant.
However, he added that the new strain was applying “intense pressure” on the NHS, with the number of patients in hospital with Covid 78 per cent higher than in the peak of the first wave.
The UK recorded a further 1,402 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of Covid-related fatalities to 95, 981.
Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said scientists were now “confident” that the coronavirus mutation was between 30 and 70 per cent more transmissible than the original Covid strain.
“We don’t yet understand why that is the case,” he said, adding that the new strain “doesn’t have a difference in terms of age distribution”.
However, Vallance insisted that there was “good clinical evidence” that natural immunity from other Covid strains would provide protection against the new mutation.
It comes after Neil Ferguson, who sits on Nervtag, the government’s virus advisory committee, earlier today said it was a “realistic possibility that the new UK variant increases the risk of death”.
“Four groups – Imperial, LSHTM, PHE and Exeter – have looked at the relationship between people testing positive for the variant vs old strains and the risk of death.”
The professor said the data available on the new variant is patchy, but there is a “signal” that there is a “1.3-fold increased risk of death”.