UK says new COVID-19 strain is between 30-90 per cent more deadly

The new UK strain has made it to Australia. Picture: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
The new mutant strain of coronavirus is between 30 and 90 per cent more deadly than the old one but vaccines will still work, UK scientists say.

The revelation came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned the nation there is “evidence” more people are dying than before — as the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said the new dominant COVID-19 variant was “obviously of concern”.

Three separate groups of experts advising the government have looked at the impact of the more contagious Kent variant on mortality.

Researchers concluded the new strain is between 29 and 91 per cent more likely to kill infected Brits — with three different studies showing very different results.

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said it could be 1.35 times more deadly, Imperial College London said it was between 1.36 or 1.29 depending on the method used, and the University of Exeter found it may be 1.91 times more deadly.

The research was only based on a few hundreds deaths, but scientists followed them through from infection through to death.

We’ve been informed today in addition to spreading more quickly, it appears there is some evidence the new variant may be associated with a higher degree of mortality, Mr Johnson told a press conference on Friday night.

He warned the infection rate was “forbiddingly high”.

The new strain, which was first discovered in Kent, is already more easily transmitted than the older one, too — meaning it is infecting more Brits.

It’s being blamed for the huge increases in cases in the UK in the last month.

However, Mr Vallance said that 13 or 14 people per 1000 would die of the new strain, compared to around 10 of the old strain.

There isn’t much information about the South Africa and Brazil variants and their death rates yet, he explained.

We are more concerned they have more features they might be less susceptible to vaccines, he added.
They are definitely of more concern and we need to keep looking at it and studying it.

Professor Neil Ferguson, who sits on the government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), said on Friday there was “a realistic possibility that the new UK variant increases the risk of death, but there is considerable remaining uncertainty”.

The research was consistent across different age groups, regions and ethnicities, he added.

However, he warned that only eight per cent of deaths contain information about which strain they had had.

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