Coronavirus variant detected in UK may be more deadly, PM warns


LONDON, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- The coronavirus variant first identified in Britain may be more deadly than the older virus strain, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned Friday.

"There is some evidence that the new variant may be associated with a higher degree of mortality," Johnson said at a Downing Street news conference.

The new strain of coronavirus, first identified in Kent in England, is thought to be up to 70 percent more transmissible.

According to the British government's Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance, early evidence suggests the difference is between 10 deaths in 1,000 infected with the older variant to 13 or 14 in 1,000 infected with the new variant.

However, Johnson said that the current vaccines are still effective against the new variant.

"All current evidence continues to show" that the current vaccines remain effective against the old coronavirus variant and this new one, he said.

Johnson said the National Health Service (NHS) is under significant pressure, urging the public to continue to follow the restriction rules.

The prime minister noted that there are more than 38,000 people in hospital, 78 percent higher than there were at peak of the first wave, and more than 4,600 people have been hospitalized in the last 24 hours.

Also joining Johnson for the press briefing, Chris Whitty, England's chief medical officer said the most recent data showed that there has been a "turning of a corner" on the positivity rates amid lockdown.

However, he said the number of deaths is steadily increasing, which may go on for some days to come due to the delay of hospitalization.

Another 40,261 people in Britain have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 3,583,907, according to official figures released Friday.

Another 1,401 people have died within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test. The total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain now stands at 95,981, the data showed.

England is currently under the third national lockdown since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country. Similar restriction measures are also in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

To bring life back to normal, countries such as Britain, China, Germany, Russia and the United States have been racing against time to roll out coronavirus vaccines.

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