The UK variant first discovered in Kent in November is more transmissible than the older variant but may also be more deadly. Sir Patrick Vallance warned emerging data suggests it is responsible for an increase in mortality. As the Chief Scientific Advisor explained in today’s press conference, anyone who has tested positive has an increased risk of mortality when compared to the older variant.
However, according to Sir Patrick, the relative risk increases with age.
The Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor said it appears that among those in their 60s who test positive for COVID-19, 13 or 14 people in 1,000 would die compared to 10 in 1,000 in previous variants.
He qualified his comment by stressing the evidence is not conclusive at this stage.
Sir Patrick added that the variant “will be susceptible to the vaccines”.
READ MORE: How much more deadly is the new Covid strain?
The warning was issued by one of government’s scientific advisory groups.
In a Twitter post earlier on Friday, ITV political editor Robert Peston said the government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) had concluded it “may be a bit more lethal than the existing strain”.
The warning comes from a statement put out by Neil Ferguson, an Imperial College professor and Nervtag member, which read: “It is a realistic possibility that the new UK variant increases the risk of death, but there is considerable remaining uncertainty.”
There is a key limitation to the evidence supporting this conclusion, however.