Published: Sat, January 23, 2021

New UK variant of coronavirus may be more deadly, says Boris Johnson

New UK variant of coronavirus may be more deadly, says Boris Johnson

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has sought to clarify Prime Minister Johnson's remarks on the so-called "British" strain of the new coronavirus, saying its risky nature appears to be associated with the pressure it puts on medical resources due to its transmissibility, and not the nature of the pathogen itself.

Chief government scientist Patrick Vallance said the new variant could be 30-40pc more deadly for some age groups, although he stressed the assessment relied on sparse data.

The indications are that the death rate in those infected with the new variant is around third higher than with the previous version - though the absolute risk of death is still low.

For context, with the original variant, if you took a group of 1,000 infected men in their 60s roughly 10 would die.

It said the number of new infections was shrinking by between 1% and 4% every day.

Until now, scientists felt confident the strain didn't pose a more serious disease.

Earlier, Environment Secretary George Eustice said officials were looking at more ways to crackdown on borders and even shut them completely to stop new variants reaching Britain's shores.

Previously, researchers at Denmark's State Serum Institute appeared to challenge previous claims on the transmissibility of the "British" coronavirus strain, concluding that the new strain was about 36 percent more contagious than the common one, and not 74 percent, as previously suggested by British scientists in an earlier study.

Boris Johnson announced the latest news on the United Kingdom variant at a coronavirus press conference at Downing Street today (January 22).

Mr Johnson said there could be no easing of the lockdown restrictions in England until it was clear the vaccination programme was working.

One possible factor that could indirectly explain why B.1.1.7 seems deadlier - hospitals being overwhelmed with more cases caused by a more transmissible variant - doesn't appear to be playing a major role, however.

Experts are becoming increasingly anxious that at least some variants of the coronavirus will pose an added challenge to limiting the spread of covid-19 through vaccination.

He said the Government could have to bring in further restrictions on travel following a warning that other new variants found in South Africa and Brazil may be more resistant to the vaccines that have been developed.

The UK is now in a lockdown in an attempt to slow the latest surge of the coronavirus outbreak. Pubs, restaurants, entertainment venues and many shops are closed, and people are required to stay largely at home.

Mr Johnson, who has often been accused of giving overly optimistic predictions about relaxing coronavirus restrictions, sounded gloomy.

"I don't think this virus is going anywhere", he said.

"At this stage you've got to be very, very cautious indeed", he said. "It's going to be around probably forever, but it will be controlled".

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