New UK Covid variant could be more deadly

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a phone call with US President Joe Biden

It is spreading 30 to 70% more easily than the old variant. Pubs, restaurants, entertainment venues and many shops are closed, and people are required to stay largely at home.

Research suggests the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines will continue to be effective against the new variant in the United Kingdom, which was first detected in southeast England and has now spread around the world, including to the U.S.

A record 1,820 people were reported to have died of coronavirus on Wednesday, with another 1,401 COVID-related deaths registered on Friday.

According to Vallance: "The vaccines are being rolled out at an unprecedented pace, we have more vaccines than we could ever have dreamt of a year ago - including ones we can alter as needs be - and we have new medicines coming along, including specific anti-virals".

Speaking at a press conference earlier, Boris Johnson said the number of Covid patients in hospital was now almost 80 per cent higher than in the first peak in April.

Johnson said some 5.3 million people had received their first jab, and the government was on track to achieve its target of vaccinating 15 million of the most vulnerable by mid-February.

"Both the vaccines we're now using remain effective both against the old variant and this new variant", he added.

"This is a very high rate and it will take longer to come down and will probably go up over the next week".

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The Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M) said the number of new infections was now shrinking by between 1% and 4% every day.

Johnson unveiled the worrying statistic in a London new conference.

But he said delaying the second dose of the vaccines does not create a substantial risk of making the virus more unsafe as it mutates to survive improved immunity.

Also, Borio said, there may be more deaths because people are avoiding or unable to get routine care during the pandemic.

Vallance said the death rate among COVID-19 sufferers aged in their 60s was 1.3 percent, compared with 1 percent for the first variant.

The emergence of several, more infectious strains of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has anxious governments and scientists, who are investigating how and why the virus became more transmissible.

"And because the total number of cases continues to grow exponentially, it is not hard to argue that more variants of concern arose this winter and remain undetected than arose in fall and now are on our radar", University of Washington biologist Carl Bergstrom, wrote on Twitter.

"The big caveat is that we only know which strain people were infected with for about 8% of deaths", Peston quoted Ferguson as saying, also setting out further limitations on the available data.

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