Boris Johnson: ‘Some evidence’ new COVID-19 variant could be more deadly

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday that there’s “some evidence” that the COVID-19 variant first discovered in the United Kingdom could be more deadly than the original strain.

“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, which was first identified in London and in the southeast, may be associated with a higher degree of mortality,” Johnson said at a press conference Friday.

The warning about the new strain comes after experts have maintained that there was no evidence that it could be more deadly.

Johnson added that “all current evidence” shows that both vaccines the U.K. has approved — one from Pfizer-BioNTech and the other from AstraZeneca — “remain effective” against both strains of the virus.

Patrick Vallance, the British government’s chief scientific adviser, said there’s no evidence of an increase in mortality from the new variant among those who are hospitalized.

“However, when data is looked at for those who’ve tested positive — so anyone that has tested positive — there is evidence that there’s an increased risk for those who have the new variant compared to the old virus.”

To illustrate his point, Wallace said that of 1,000 60-year-old men who test positive, 13 or 14 would be expected to die with the new variant. With the original variant, 10 people would be expected to die.

However, Wallace stressed that the data is still uncertain, and that “more work” is needed to fully understand the risk.

“I want to stress that there’s a lot of uncertainty around these numbers and we need more work to get the precise handle of it. But it obviously is of concern that this has an increase in mortality as well as an increase in transmissibility as it appears as of today,” Wallace said.

The new variant has already made its way into a handful of countries, including the United States. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released last week warned that the strain could become more dominant in the U.S. by mid-March.

Tags Boris Johnson Coronavirus COVID-19 UK

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