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UK

Britain says new COVID-19 variant may carry higher risk of death

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday the new English variant of COVID-19 may be associated with a higher level of mortality, though he said evidence showed that both vaccines being used in the country were effective against it.

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance attends a news conference amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Downing Street in London, Britain, October 22, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/Pool

Johnson and his top advisers spoke at a news conference:

PRIME MINISTER BORIS JOHNSON

“We have been informed today, 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.”

CHIEF SCIENTIFIC ADVISER, PATRICK VALLANCE

“When we look at data from hospitals - so patients who are in hospital with the virus - the outcomes for those with the original virus or the new variant look the same. So there’s no real evidence of an increase in mortality for those in hospitals.

“However, when data are looked at in terms of those who’ve been tested positive - so anyone who’s tested positive - there is evidence that there’s an increased risk for those who have the new variant compared to the old virus.

“Now that evidence is not yet strong - it’s a series of different bits of information that come together to support that.”

“Stressing that these data (are) currently uncertain, and we don’t have a very good estimate of the precise nature, or indeed, whether it is overall increased - but it looks like it is - I want to give some context:

“If you took ... a man in their 60s. The average risk is that for 1,000 people who got infected, roughly 10 would be expected to unfortunately die with the virus.

“With the new variant for 1,000 people infected, roughly 13 or 14 people might be expected to die - so that’s the sort of change for that sort of age group.”

“You will see that across the different age groups as well, a similar sort of relative increase in the risk.”

“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 as it appears of today”

Reporting by William James, Andy Bruce, Sarah Young, James Davey and Alistair Smout

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