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The new version of the coronavirus in the UK may be more deadly than the original strain, says the health official

LONDON – There is some evidence that a new variant of the coronavirus, first identified in the South East of England, carries a higher risk of death than the original strain, the British government’s chief scientific adviser said on Friday, although stress was uncertain. .

Patrick Valance told a news conference that “there is evidence that there is an increased risk for those who have the new option.”

He said that for a 60-year-old man with the original version of the virus, “the average risk is that for every 1

,000 infected people, about 10 people are expected to die, unfortunately.”

“With the new version for 1,000 infected people, approximately 13 or 14 people can be expected to die,” he said.

But Valance stressed that “the evidence is not yet strong” and more research is needed.

In contrast to this uncertainty, he said, there is growing confidence that the variant is more easily transmitted than the original coronavirus strain. He said it appears to be between 30% and 70% more transferable.

Maria Van Kerhove, technical director of the World Health Organization for COVID-19, said studies are underway to study the transmission and severity of new variants of the virus.

So far, she said, “they have not seen an increase in weight,” but that more transmission could lead to a “congested health care system” and therefore more deaths.

Evidence that the new version is more deadly is in a paper prepared by a group of scientists advising the government on new respiratory viruses, based on several studies.

British scientists say that although initial analyzes suggest that the strain, first identified in September, did not cause a more severe disease, several more recent ones suggest that it may. However, the number of deaths is relatively small and the mortality rate is affected by many things, including the care that patients receive, as well as their age and health outside of COVID-19.

British scientists emphasize that the information so far has great limitations and that they do not know how representative the cases included in the analyzes are for what is happening across the country or elsewhere.

One analysis did not find an increased risk of death among people admitted to hospital with the new strain. In another, the chances of being admitted to hospital with the new strain did not differ from the previously dominant one.

There is a delay in reporting hospitalizations after infection and an additional delay from infection to death, so staff expect to learn more in a few weeks.

Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said there was “quite a difference in the predicted increased risk of death between different tests, although most, but not all, showed an increased risk of death,” he said.

Ian Jones, a professor of virology at the University of Reading, said: “The data is limited and the conclusions are preliminary. However, an increased fatality rate is certainly possible with a virus that has improved its game in transmission. “

The British authorities said they were confident that vaccines approved for use against COVID-19 would be effective against the new strain identified in the country.

But Valance said scientists are concerned that the options identified in Brazil and South Africa may be more resistant to vaccines, adding that more research needs to be done.

Concerns about the newly discovered options have caused many new restrictions on travel around the world. Many countries have closed their borders to UK travelers, and the UK has suspended flights from Brazil and South Africa.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said there may be additional restrictions.

“We may have to go further to protect our borders,” he said.

The UK has registered 95,981 deaths among people with a positive coronavirus test, the highest total number confirmed in Europe.

The United Kingdom is currently blocked in an attempt to slow the latest outbreak of a coronavirus epidemic. Pubs, restaurants, entertainment venues and many shops are closed and people have to stay at home for a long time.

The number of new infections has begun to decline, but deaths remain agonizingly high, averaging more than 1,000 a day, and the number of hospitalized patients is 80 percent higher than the first peak of the pandemic in the spring.

Johnson, who has often been accused of making overly optimistic predictions about relieving coronavirus restrictions, sounded grim.

“We will have to live with coronavirus in one way or another for a long time,” he said, adding that “it is an open question” when the measures can be eased.

“At this point, you have to be really, really careful,” he said.

Valance agreed

“I don’t think this virus is going anywhere,” he said. “It will be around, probably forever.”

___ AP chief medical writer Marilyn Marchionne and medical writer Maria Cheng contributed to this story.


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