United Kingdom chief scientist says new virus variant may be more deadly

Grant Boone
January 23, 2021

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to lead a coronavirus press conference this evening, as speculation grows that the government may be considering a new £500 payment for people told to self-isolate.

Professor Neil Ferguson, a scientist on the British Government's virus advisory committee, said the latest data showed up to 13 in 1000 people aged 60 who contract the variant strain could die, compared with 10 in 1000 who caught the original variant.

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

"Both the vaccines we're now using remain effective both against the old variant and this new variant", he added.

"If you took. a man in their 60s, the average risk is that for 1,000 people who got infected, roughly 10 would be expected to unfortunately die with the virus". "It is the case that both the South African and Brazilian identified variants have more differences in shape which might mean they are recognized differently by antibodies ... but it is too early to know the effect that will have on the vaccination on people, and it is worth remembering that the response of the vaccine is very, very high antibody levels, and they may overcome some of this", Vallance said.

While still in an early stage, the new evidence suggests the United Kingdom variant is roughly 30% more deadly.

The premier said he was more focused on trying to enforce compliance and that he would not consider relaxing rules for now until there was strong evidence that infections were down.

Renewed lockdown sends United Kingdom economy tumbling again
Factories fared much better, despite fading growth in output and a renewed decline in order books. However, there were negative signs elsewhere in the eurozone manufacturing sector.

The researchers also did not find evidence of increased mortality tied to the variant for hospitalized individuals specifically.

The official estimate of the "R rate" - which measures how many people each infected person passes the virus on to - fell to between 0.8 and 1, the results released on Friday showed.

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Vallance stressed the variants recently identified in Brazil and South Africa are more worrying because they might be less susceptible to vaccines.

The U.K. has recorded 95,981 deaths among people who tested positive for the coronavirus, the highest confirmed total in Europe.

The number of new infections has begun to fall, but deaths remain agonisingly high, averaging more than 1,000 a day, and the number of hospitalised patients is 80 per cent higher than at the first peak of the pandemic in the spring.

The UK is now in a lockdown in an attempt to slow the latest surge of the coronavirus outbreak.

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