New UK Coronavirus Mutation 'May Be More Deadly,' Says British PM

While these are still preliminary results, the evidence could have grim implications.
Brad Bergan

An early analysis of the U.K. variant of the COVID-19 coronavirus suggests the one that emerged from there may be more deadly, according to U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in an initial report from the BBC.

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


New UK coronavirus variant 'may be more deadly'

Scientists of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group assessed the early data — and subsequently briefed the British government on the grim findings.

However, the evidence from these latest findings are still in a preliminary stage, so we shouldn't rush to negative conclusions.

UPDATE Jan. 22, 12:35 PM EST: UK coronavirus variant could have 'higher degree of mortality,' says PM

The new U.K. variant of the COVID-19 coronavirus was initially detected in Kent, in September 2020. Since then, it's become the dominant strain of the virus in both England and Northern Ireland — and it's also spread to more than 50 additional countries, including the United States.

"In addition to spreading more quickly it also now appears that there is some evidence that the new variant, the variant that was first identified in London and the south east, may be associated with a higher degree of mortality," lamented British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

"It's largely the impact of this new variant that means the NHS is under such intense pressure," added Johnson.

UPDATE Jan. 22, 12:43 PM EST: 13 out of 1,000 elderly infected with new coronavirus variant may die, on average

The early evidence came from mathematicians evaluating trends in the number of people who died after contracting the new versus those who died from the old ones.

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However, the evidence on lethality "is not yet strong," according to the U.K.'s Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance, the BBC reports.

"I want to stress that there's a lot of uncertainty around these numbers and we need more work to get a precise handle on it, but it obviously is a concern that this has an increase in mortality as well as an increase in transmissibility," added Vallance.

While still in an early stage, the new evidence suggests the U.K. variant is roughly 30% more deadly. For example, 10 of the 1,000 60-year-olds who contracted the old variant will — on average — die. But with the new U.K. variant, 13 will die from infection, on average.

UPDATE Jan. 22, 12:55 PM EST: Brazil, South Africa variants 'might be less susceptible to vaccines'

The varying mortality rate is accounted for when observing everyone who has tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus — but the hospital data alone didn't show an increase in the rate of mortality, BBC reports.

Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca's vaccines are both seen as effective against the new U.K. variant of the coronavirus. But Patrick said more concern surrounds the other two variants — from Brazil and South Africa.

"They have certain features which means they might be less susceptible to vaccines," said Patrick. "They are definitely of more concern than the one in the U.K. at the moment and we need to keep looking at it and studying this very carefully."

We live in unsettling times, to put things lightly. The pharmacological and administrative powers of the world were pushed into overdrive last year, and everyone's lives have changed for keeps. With the possibility of a more deadly coronavirus strain, it's clear we're not through this crisis yet. But staying informed and focused on goodwill in communities can go a long way to helping each other get through one of the most difficult moments in human history.

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