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U.K. COVID variant appears to be more deadly than original, prime minister says

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Friday that the U.K. variant of the coronavirus appears to be more deadly than the original virus. Health officials previously warned it is more contagious.

It "now appears there is some evidence that the new variant... may be associated with a higher degree of mortality," Johnson said in a Friday press conference. 

Britain's Chief Medical Officer, Sir Patrick Vallance, elaborated, stressing that the mortality data was still uncertain and more work need to be done.

"When we look at data from hospitals, so patients who are in hospital with the virus, the outcomes for those with the original virus or the new variant look the same, so there's no real evidence of an increase in mortality for those in hospital," he said.

"However, when data are looked at in terms of those who have been tested positive, so anyone who has tested positive, there is evidence that there's an increased risk for those who have the new variant compared to the old virus," he continued.

For a man in his 60s, Vallance explained, the average risk with the old variant would be that for every 1,000 people infected, roughly 10 would die from COVID-19. For the new U.K. variant, he said, roughly 13 or 14 people might be expected to pass away.

"And you will see that across the different age groups as well, a similar sort of relative increase in the risk."

The newer variant started spreading through the U.K. in the fall and has now been identified in states across the U.S. as well. So far, research indicates that the current COVID-19 vaccines will still be effective against the U.K. variant.

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