Getting to grips with . . .

How the UK is handling the Kent coronavirus strain

Study finds variant discovered prior to Christmas may be 70% more deadly

The highly infectious Covid-19 variant discovered in Kent may be 70% more deadly than previous strains, according to analysis by the government’s scientific advisors.

Analysis of a dozen studies of the Kent variant by the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group found that the strain is likely to be 30% to 70% more deadly than other versions of the coronavirus.

The study compared hospitalisation rates and deaths related to the variant, with Dr David Strain, a clinical senior lecturer at the University of Exeter Medical School, telling Al Jazeera that the findings suggest “higher transmissibility means that people who were previously at low risk of catching Covid are now catching it and ending up in hospital”.

The strain originally drove a spike in cases in the UK, pushing daily infections to a peak of more than 68,000 per day on 8 January and spurring Boris Johnson’s decision to place London and parts of the south east into Tier 4 restrictions over Christmas and New Year.

However, scientists remain confident that “vaccines will still protect against the variant, with increasing evidence that those who were infected against the first strain appeared to be protected against the new one”, The Telegraph reports.

The Kent variant is now the predominant strain in the UK and has spread to more than 50 countries, according to Professor Sharon Peacock. She told the BBC Newscast podcast that it has “swept the country” and is “going to sweep the world, in all probability”.

However, the variant does appear to be impacted by the UK’s speedy vaccine rollout, with “some early signs of a possible vaccine effect in falling deaths among people aged over 80”, the BBC says.

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