British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a press briefing on the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Downing Street on January 15, 2021 in London, England.
Dominic Lipinski | Getty Images
LONDON —There is “evidence” that a new variant of Covid first identified in the UK could be deadlier than the original strain, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday.
“We have been informed today that in addition to spreading faster, it 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 rate, ”Johnson said at a press conference.
He added that all the evidence suggests that vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca-Oxford University, both currently in use in the UK, remain effective against old and newer variants of the virus.
The evidence is still at a preliminary stage and is being assessed by the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, which advises the UK government.
The variant, known as B.1.1.7, has an unusually high number of mutations and was already associated with more efficient and rapid transmission.
Scientists first detected this mutation in September. It has since been found in at least 44 countries, including the United States, which has reported its presence in 12 states.
Last week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that the modeled trajectory of the variant in the United States “shows rapid growth in early 2021, becoming the predominant variant in March.”
Speaking alongside Johnson on Friday, UK Chief Science Adviser Patrick Vallance said there was now preliminary evidence of an increased risk for those with the new variant, compared to the old virus.
“If you took … a man in his 60s, the average risk is that for every 1,000 people infected, about 10 will unfortunately die from the virus. With the new variant, for every 1,000 people infected, around 13 or 14 people can be expected to die, ”Vallance said.
He described the data as not yet solid, and highlighted more concern over other variants of Covid found in Brazil and South Africa.
– CNBC’s Sam Meredith contributed to this article.