The COVID-19 variant that was first identified in the UK may be more deadly than the original virus, the prime minister has warned.
At the Downing Street news conference on Friday, Boris Johnson said: “There is some evidence that the new variant may be associated with a higher degree of mortality.”
Mr Johnson added: “All current evidence continues to show that the current vaccines remain effective against the old coronavirus variant and this new one.”
Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said with the initial variant, out of 1,000 people over 60 infected with it, 10 would die.
With the UK variant, the available data suggests that 13 or 14 people out of 1,000 from the same age group would be expected to die, he added.
We have now learned that, in addition to spreading more quickly, the new variant of the virus may also be associated with a higher degree of mortality.
It is therefore more important than ever that we all follow the rules and stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) January 22, 2021
However, he said there was less certainty about the vaccines’ efficacy against variants which had appeared in other countries such as South Africa and Brazil.
“We are more concerned that they have certain features that they might be less susceptible to vaccines,” he said.
Forty-four people in the UK have the South African variant of coronavirus, according to figures from Public Health England, with a maximum estimate of 71 people infected.
And the prime minister admitted further action may be necessary to protect the country’s borders to prevent new variants from entering.
“I really don’t rule it out, w