UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference on Coronavirus (COVID-19) on Downing Street on January 15, 2021 in London, England.
Dominic Lipinski | Getty Images
LONDON – There is “some evidence” that a new variant of Covid, first identified in the UK, could be more deadly than the original variety, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Friday.
“We were informed today that not only is there a faster spread, but there is also evidence that the new variant – the variant first discovered in London and the south east (of England) – may be associated with a higher one Mortality rate, “Johnson told a press conference.
He added that all the evidence suggests that the vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca-Oxford University, both of which are currently in use in the UK, will remain effective against both the old and new variants of the virus.
The evidence is still in a preliminary stage and is being assessed by the Advisory Group on New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats, which is advising the UK Government.
The variant known as B.1.1.7 has an unusually high number of mutations and was already associated with more efficient and faster transmission.
Scientists first discovered this mutation in September. It has since been found in at least 44 countries, including the US, which has reported its presence in 12 states.
Last week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that the US variant’s modeled trajectory “is growing rapidly in early 2021 and will become the predominant variant in March”.
Patrick Vallance, the UK’s chief scientific adviser, said alongside Johnson on Friday that there were early signs that the risk for those with the new variant was increased compared to the old virus.
“If you were to … take a man in his sixties, the average risk is that for every 1,000 people infected, about 10 would die from the virus. With the new variant, for 1,000 people infected, about 13 or 14 would be expected People are dying, “said Vallance.
He described the data as not yet strong and emphasized more concern about other variants of Covid in Brazil and South Africa.
The UK is currently in its third full lockdown as infection rage soars just before Christmas due to the new variant. The country reported another 1,401 deaths on Friday and has the highest coronavirus death rate in Europe at 96,166 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
– CNBC’s Sam Meredith contributed to this article.