United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday said some evidence suggested that the new strain of the coronavirus first discovered in the country could be more deadly and transmissible, reported AFP.
“In addition to spreading more quickly, it also now appears that there is some evidence that the new variant... may be associated with a higher degree of mortality,” Johnson said at a news conference.
The prime minister, however, also said that both the coronavirus vaccines being used in Britain are effective against the old as well as the new variant.
The news came as the country witnessed a record number of deaths because of the coronavirus, following a surge in cases and hospitalisations since the variant was first identified in southeast England in September. The country has so far reported 35,53,773 Covid-19 infections and 94,765 fatalities, according to the John Hopkins University data.
The toll because of the infection has risen by 16% in the UK, while the number of those affected being hospitalised has almost doubled in comparison to the first wave of the pandemic in April.
Chief government scientist Patrick Vallance said the variant could be 30%-40% more deadly for some age groups, but he stressed that the 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.”
On the vaccination drive, Johnson said that 5.4 million, or 54 lakh, people had now received their first dose of two vaccines, which is currently being administered, with a daily record of 4 lakh people getting inoculated in the last 24 hours. The government plans to inoculate the entire adult population by September.
England and Scotland had announced new restrictions on January 4 to control the surge in the infection because of the new variant of the coronavirus, according to Reuters. New Office for National Statistics data released on Friday revealed that the stay-at-home order had helped slightly curb the infection rates across the country last week.
The government has also said that it was launching a campaign featuring hospital staff and Covid-19 patients, in a bid to remind the public of the extreme pressures still facing the state-run health service. “Cases remain dangerously high and we must remain vigilant to keep this virus under control,” the health ministry said. “It is essential that everyone continues to stay at home, whether they have had the vaccine or not.”
The new strain of the coronavirus has affected more than 60 countries, including India, according to the World Health Organization. In India, there are nearly 150 cases of the new strain.