The British government’s chief scientific adviser said on Friday that there was some evidence that a new type of coronavirus first identified in southeast England had a higher risk of death than the original strain – although he stressed that the data was not confirmed.
“There is evidence that there is an increased risk for those who have the new alternative,” Patrick Vallance told a news conference.
He said that for a man in his sixties who carried the original version of the virus, “the average risk is that for 1,000 infected people, approximately 10 unfortunately are expected to die.”
“With the new variant, for 1,000 infected people, approximately 13 or 14 people are expected to die,” he said.
But Valance stressed that “the evidence is not yet strong” and more research is needed.
In contrast to this uncertainty, he said, there is increasing confidence that the variant is more easily transmitted than the original coronavirus strain. He said it appears to be between 30% and 70% more transmissible.
Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s chief technical officer on COVID-19, said studies are underway to look at the transmission and severity of new virus variants.
So far, she said, “they have not seen an increase in risk,” but that further transmission could lead to an “overburdened healthcare system” and thus more deaths.
Evidence that the new, more lethal alternative is meIn a paper prepared by a group of scientists, the government advises about the new respiratory virusesBased on numerous studies.
The British scientists said that although preliminary analyzes indicated that the strain, which was first identified in September, did not cause more severe disease, several recent studies suggest that this may happen. However, the death toll is relatively small, and case fatality rates are affected by many things including the care patients receive, their age and health after contracting COVID-19.
British scientists assert that the information so far has significant limitations, and that they do not know how much the cases included in the analyzes represent what is happening across the country or anywhere else.
One analysis did not find an increased risk of death among people hospitalized with the new strain. In another case, the odds of being admitted to hospital with the new strain compared to the previously prevailing hospital were not different.
There is a delay in reporting hospitalization after infection, and an additional delay from infection to death, so officials expect to learn more within several weeks.
“There is little difference in estimating the increased risk of death between the different analyzes, although most, but not all, show an increased risk of death,” said Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia. .
“The data are limited and the conclusions are preliminary. Nevertheless, an increased death rate is certainly possible with a virus that has increased its transmission game,” said Ian Jones, a professor of virology at the University of Reading.
British officials say they are confident that the vaccines authorized for use against COVID-19 will be effective against the new strain that has been identified in the country.
But Valance said that scientists are concerned that the variants identified in Brazil and South Africa could be more resistant to vaccines, adding that more research is needed.
Concerns over the newly identified variables have caused a series of new travel restrictions around the world. Many countries closed their borders to travelers from Britain, and the United Kingdom suspended flights from Brazil and South Africa.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there may be other restrictions.
“We may need to go further to protect our borders,” he said.
Britain has recorded 95,981 deaths among people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus, the highest total confirmed in Europe.
The UK is currently under lockdown in an effort to slow the latest wave of the coronavirus outbreak. Bars, restaurants, entertainment venues and many stores are closed, and people are largely required to stay home.
The number of new infections has begun to decline, but deaths are still painfully high, averaging more than 1,000 cases per day, and the number of hospitalized patients is 80% higher than it was at the first peak of the epidemic in the spring.
Johnson, who has often been accused of making overly optimistic predictions about easing coronavirus restrictions, looked bleak.
“We will have to live with the Coronavirus in one way or another for a long time to come,” he said, adding that it was an “open question” when would the measures be eased.
“At this point you have to be very, really, really careful,” he said.
“I do not think that this virus is transmitted anywhere,” he said. “It will likely be around forever.”