Health

Covid new variant: New UK variant could be more deadly – who is most at risk?

The new UK variant of coronavirus first discovered in November is more transmissible than the older variant but it may also be more deadly, evidence suggests. 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.

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“The big caveat is that we only know which strain people were infected with for about eight percent of deaths,” Peston quoted Ferguson as saying.

Other variants discovered

The new, more transmissible variant of SARS-CoV-2 found in England is just one of many variations of the virus being detected around the world.

New variants of coronavirus have also been discovered in South Africa and Brazil. 

According to an article published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the South African variant emerged around the same time as the English one, and has since been detected in at least 20 countries.

“This variant shares similarities with the English and Brazilian variants in that it contains both the N501Y and E484K spike protein mutations,” the article states.

There are growing fears that the new variants will be resistant to the current vaccines in circulation.

The fears stem from the fact that the three main vaccines – Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna, and Oxford AstraZeneca – all target the spike protein of the virus, where these variants have mutations.

However, researchers are still “fairly confident” the vaccines will work against the new variants, the BMJ reports.

What are the main symptoms of coronavirus?

The main symptoms of coronavirus are:

  • A high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • A new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
  • A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal.

According to the NHS, most people with coronavirus have at least one of these symptoms.

How to respond

If you have any of the main symptoms of coronavirus, get a test to check if you have coronavirus as soon as possible.

You and anyone you live with should stay at home and not have visitors until you get your test result – only leave your home to have a test.




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