British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the new variant of COVID-19 first identified in England could be associated with a higher level of mortality, although he said evidence showed that the two vaccines used in the country were effective against it.
Johnson said the effect of the new variant, which is already known to be more transmissible, was putting the health service under “intense pressure”.
“We were informed today that in addition to spreading faster, it also now appears that there is evidence that the new variant – the variant which was first discovered in London and the south – east (from England) – could be associated with a higher death toll, ”he said at a press briefing.
Johnson said, however, that all current evidence shows that both vaccines remain effective against old and newer variants.
Chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance said the evidence on mortality levels was “not yet strong” and came from a “range of different pieces of information”, stressing that there was great uncertainty around. Datas.
He said once people got to the hospital there was no greater risk, but there were signs that people who had the UK variant were more at risk overall .
“There is no real evidence of an increase in hospitalized mortality. However, when the data is looked at in terms of those who have tested positive … there is evidence that there is an increased risk for those with the new variant, compared to the old virus, ”he said. -he declares.
He said that for a man in his 60s, the average risk was that 10 in 1,000 infected people would die, but that number had increased to around 13 or 14 in 1,000 with the new variant – a 30-40% increase. .
“I want to stress that there is a lot of uncertainty around these numbers and we need more work to get a clear picture,” he said.
“But it is obviously worrying that this is leading to increased mortality as well as increased transmissibility.”
But Al Jazeera’s Neave Barker, reporting from London, said scientists seemed more concerned about growing evidence suggesting that new variants recorded in South Africa and Brazil had characteristics that could reduce the effectiveness of vaccines developed so far. ‘now.
“They know that the British variant can be treated, but these other two, there may be problems,” he said.
“So concerns are being raised about people coming into the country from these infected areas, and what would happen given the numbers are already very high if these particular strains also started to take off in the population.”
The warning about the higher risk of death linked to the new variant identified in the UK at the end of last year, came as a further blow after the country was bolstered by the news earlier than the number of new COVID-19 infections was decreasing by as much as 4 percent per day.
Data released earlier Friday showed 5.38 million people had received their first dose of the vaccine, of which 409,855 received it in the past 24 hours, a record so far.
England and Scotland announced new restrictions on January 4 to stem an outbreak of the disease fueled by the new, highly transmissible variant of the coronavirus, which has led to a record number of daily deaths and infections this month .
The closely monitored breeding “R” number has been estimated to be between 0.8 and one, down from a range of 1.2 to 1.3 last week, meaning that on average, every 10 people infected will infect between eight and 10 other people.
But the Bureau of National Statistics estimated that the overall prevalence remains high, with around one in 55 people having the virus.
“The 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 received the vaccine or not.”
The UK has recorded more than 3.5 million infections and nearly 96,000 deaths – the fifth highest death toll in the world – as the economy has been hammered. Friday’s figures showed government debt was at its highest as a share of gross domestic product (GDP) since 1962, and retailers had their worst year on record.