UK Coronavirus Variant Might Be Deadlier, Says PM Boris Johnson

The Quint
·2 min read

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on 22 January that the new variant of the coronavirus, which was detected in the UK towards the end of 2020, could be more deadly as well as more transmissible, adding that evidence suggests the vaccines remain effective against the variant, Reuters and AFP reported.

The strain has now spread to more than 60 nations, including India and China.

In a televised briefing from 10 Downing Street, Johnson said, “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. It is largely the impact of this new variant that means the NHS (National Health Service) is under so much intense pressure.”

He added that current evidence showed that both vaccines remained effective against old and new variants.

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The health ministry said that cases continued to be high and that vigilance was needed to keep this virus under control. “It is essential everyone stay home, whether you have had the vaccine or not,” the health ministry.

Britain is currently under its third and worst wave of the virus. To curb the spread of the high transmissible variant of coronavirus, England has been on its third lockdown, with similar restrictions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The UK is also looking at the biggest vaccination programme in its history. The government appears to be on track to vaccinate 15 million of the most vulnerable by mid- February, AFP reported. According to Reuters, data published on 22 January showed that 5.38 million people had been given the first dose of a vaccine.

Chief government scientist Patrick Vallance said the variant could be 30 percent to 40 percent more deadly for particular age groups, but added a caveat of how this assessment was based on sparse data. “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 of concern,” he said. “You will see that across the different age groups as well, a similar sort of relative increase in the risk.”

New Office for National Statistics data from 22 January showed that the staying home order helped in a slight drop of infection rates. The chief medical officer was however quick to add that despite improvement, cases remained too high.

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