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British variant of coronavirus could be more lethal

LONDON (AP) – There is some evidence that a new variant of the coronavirus first identified in southeastern England carries a higher risk of death than the original strain, Patrick Vallance, the British government’s chief scientific adviser, said on Friday. although he emphasized that the information is uncertain.

At a press conference, Vallace said that for a man in his 60s infected with the original version of the virus, “the average risk is that for every 1,000 people who are infected, unfortunately about 10 are expected to die.”

“With the new variant, for every 1,000 people infected, it could be expected that approximately 13 or 14 would die,” he said.

But Vallance stressed that “the evidence is not yet strong” and more research is required.

In contrast to that uncertainty, he said, the certainty is growing that the variant is more easily spread than the original strain of the coronavirus. He noted that apparently its infectivity is superior in a range that goes from 30% to 70%.

Maria van Kerkhove, WHO technical director for COVID-19, said studies are underway to examine the transmissibility and severity of new variants of the virus.

He said that so far “they have not seen an increase in severity”, but if more infections occur, this could lead to an “overloaded health system” and, therefore, more deaths.

The evidence that the new variant is more lethal is found in a document prepared by a group of scientists advising the government on new respiratory viruses, based on several studies.

British scientists said that although initial analyzes suggested that the variant – first identified in September – did not cause a more serious disease, several more recent ones indicate that it could. However, death figures are relatively low, and death rates in cases are affected by many things, including the care patients receive, as well as their age and health beyond being infected with COVID-19. .

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AP journalists Marilynn Marchione and Maria Cheng contributed to this report.