New UK Covid strain could be more deadly, evidence suggests

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus

Prime Minister Boris Johnson led the media briefing in Downing Street this afternoon - Credit: PA

The new variant of coronavirus rapidly spreading from the South East of England could be even more deadly, as evidence suggests it could be linked to a higher death rate.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke this afternoon at the Downing Street press conference to reveal the news.

He said: “I must tell you this afternoon that we’ve been informed today that in addition to spreading more quickly it also now appears that there is some evidence that the new variant, the variant that was first identified in London and the South East, may be associated with a higher degree of mortality.

“It’s more important than ever that we all remain vigilant in following the rules and that we stay at home, protect the NHS and thereby save lives.”

“All current evidence continues to show that both the vaccines we’re currently using remain effective both against the old variant and this new variant.”

It was also revealed that the number of patients with coronavirus in hospital is now 78% higher than in the first peak of the pandemic in April, with 38,562 in hospitals across the UK.

The Prime Minister urged people to come forward for a “life-saving vaccine” when invited to do so and that the immunisation programme is advancing at an unprecedented rate.

A total of 5.4 million people have now received the first dose in the UK, however data recently showed the roll-out in Suffolk and north Essex was lagging behind the rest of the country.

Rates of coronavirus infection are now dropping in some areas, with the R Rate now below 1.0 in the East of England.

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However, Stuart Keeble, director of Public Health Suffolk, had words of caution for those who underestimate the need for continued restrictions, saying: "This shows that the actions we are taking daily are having an effect, but there is still a long way to go, with many more people in Suffolk currently infected with covid-19 than we were seeing in August.

"The virus is still spreading, and any lapse in our resolve will increase transmission and crucially, put more lives at risk."

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