UK Chief Scientist Says New Coronavirus Variant May Be More Deadly And Transmissible, But Cautions That Extra Research Is Needed

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Marlo Safi Culture Reporter
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The new coronavirus variant detected in the United Kingdom may be more deadly and transmissible than the original strain, although more research is needed, Britain’s chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance said Friday, numerous sources reported.

Vallance said that for a man in his 60s, the original strain of the virus carries an average risk of killing 10 out of every 1,000 people who are infected, the Associated Press reported.

“With the new variant, for 1,000 people infected, roughly 13 or 14 people might be expected to die,” he said.

Vallance emphasized that the evidence is uncertain regarding the mortality rate and that more research is needed. 

“I want to stress that there’s a lot of uncertainty around these numbers and we need more work to get a precise handle on it, but it obviously is a concern that this has an increase in mortality as well as an increase in transmissibility,” Vallance said, according to the BBC.

He added that there was, however, growing confidence that the new strain was 30% to 70% more transmissible than the original one, according to the AP.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said during the news conference that the vaccines that the country is using, produced by Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca, are effective against the variant.

Vallance said that variants that had been detected in South Africa and Brazil are causing more concern than the new variant in the U.K. Johnson cautioned that the government may “need to take further measures still” to prevent the other variants from entering the country, the BBC reported.

England’s lockdown rules include bans on travel domestically or internationally that are not essential. Residents are also prohibited from leaving their homes to meet people who don’t live in the same household or share a “support bubble” with them, according to the BBC. Those who gather in groups of more than 15 people will be fined £800, or roughly $1,100, which doubles with each additional offense until it reaches a maximum of £6,400, or around $8,760.

The lockdown laws are scheduled to end March 31, although Johnson has said it is “too early” to know whether the restrictions will be lifted at that time.

The variant could be the predominant strain in the U.S. by March, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and has already been detected in numerous states. (RELATED: Researchers Say They’ve Identified Coronavirus Variant Strains That Are Likely To Have Originated In US)