Is the Covid variant raging through the UK more deadly?
Research suggests B.1.1.7 is more likely to result in death, but fatality rates still lower than when pandemic began
Amid good news about Covid-19 vaccination rates increasing and infections beginning to fall in the UK, the country’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, shocked listeners to his press briefing on Friday with an unexpected announcement that the more contagious new variant of coronavirus is more lethal.
After scientists first recognised in mid-December that variant B.1.1.7 was outpacing previous versions of the virus with its rapid spread from southeast England and across the UK, they said it was about 50% more transmissible, but seemed not to cause more severe symptoms.
The government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) considered studies from three university teams and Public Health England, comparing death rates between people known to have been infected with B.1.1.7 and those with older forms of coronavirus. They corrected, as far as possible, for other factors that might affect mortality, such as age, location and ethnicity...