Kent Covid variant could be twice as deadly as previous strains, report suggests
The Kent coronavirus variant could be twice as deadly as previous Covid strains, analysis of more than 100,000 infections has suggested.
Research published today in the British Medical Journal showed that the Kent mutation, which is now the dominant strain of coronavirus in the UK, may be around 64 per cent more lethal compared to previous Covid variants.
Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, had previously suggested it may be up to 30 per cent more deadly.
Scientists from Bristol, Lancaster, Warwick and Exeter Universities compared the outcomes of 54,000 people infected with the Kent variant with the same number infected with a previous strain of the virus between 1 October and 29 January.
They found that the rate of dying for those infected by the original virus was 2.5 per 1,000 people, but rose to 4.1 in 1,000 for the Kent variant — also known as the B117 variant.
“The variant of concern, in addition to being more transmissible, seems to be more lethal,” the authors of the study concluded.
Robert Challen, lead author of the study and researched at the University of Exeter, added: “In the community, death from Covid-19 is still a rare event, but the B117 variant raises the risk. Coupled with its ability to spread rapidly this makes B117 a threat that should be taken seriously.”
The Kent variant was first identified in September last year and announced to the public in December.
The Prime Minister announced concerns that it may present a greater risk of death than other strains in January, adding that the new variant was applying “intense pressure” on the NHS.
Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, has since played down fears it may prove more resistant to vaccines than other Covid strains.
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference last month, Van-Tam said there was “a lot going on behind the scenes that will become clearer over time,” as he announced the government had signed a deal with German biotech firm CureVac for 50m doses of a new vaccine being developed to tackle emerging Covid mutations.
Van-Tam also insisted there was “no reason to believe” other Covid variants, including the South Africa strain, would overtake the Kent mutation and become the UK’s dominant strain.
It comes as extra surge testing is being rolled out across parts of London this afternoon after new cases of the South Africa variant were identified.
Extra testing genomic sequencing will be carried out in the SW11 and SW15 postcodes in Wandsworth, with people in the affected regions urged to take an Covid-19 test whether or not they are showing symptoms.