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Some evidence new strain is associated with 'higher mortality' - Boris Johnson

There is “some evidence” the UK variant of coronavirus is associated with “a higher degree of mortality”, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

Mr Johnson has said there is some evidence that the new UK variant of coronavirus may be linked to a higher death rate.

The Prime Minister told the Downing Street press conference: “I must tell you this afternoon that we’ve been informed today that in addition to spreading more quickly it also now appears that there is some evidence that the new variant, the variant that was first identified in London and the South East, may be associated with a higher degree of mortality.”

Talking about the UK variant Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance said while it may be linked to higher mortality the increasing evidence suggests it will not be resistant to the Covid-19 vaccine.

He told the Downing Street press conference: “We think it transmits between 30% and 70% more easily than the old variant. We don’t yet understand why that is the case.

“It doesn’t have a difference in terms of age distribution … it can affect anybody at any age, similarly to the original virus.”

He added that among people who have tested positive for Covid-19, there is “evidence that there is an increased risk” of death for those who have the new variant compared with the old virus.

Sir Patrick cautioned, however, that this is based on evidence which is “not yet strong” and there is “no real evidence of an increase in mortality” among those hospitalised by the variant.

“These data are currently uncertain and we don’t have a very good estimate of the precise nature or indeed whether it is an overall increase, but it looks like it is,” he added.

The Prime Minister said 5.4 million have received their first dose of the vaccine and in the last 24 hours a record 400,000 jabs were administered.

He confirmed the vaccination rollout programme is on track to vaccinate the top four most vulnerable categories by the middle of February.

Mr Johnson urged everyone to take up the offer of a vaccine when their letter arrives.

He said: “I say to everyone, when that letter arrives please don’t hesitate to book that appointment and get this life-saving protection because this is the best and fastest way for us all to defeat this virus and get our lives back to normal.”

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