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LONDON —There is “some evidence” a new Covid variant first identified in the U.K. could be more deadly than the original strain, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Friday.
“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 discovered in London and the southeast (of England) — may be associated with a higher degree of mortality,” Johnson told a press conference.
He added that all the evidence suggests the vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca-Oxford University, the two currently being used in the U.K., remain effective against both the old and new variants of the virus.
The evidence is still at a preliminary stage and it’s being assessed by the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, which advises the British government.
The variant, known as B.1.1.7., has an unusually high number of mutations and is associated with more efficient and rapid transmission.
Scientists first detected this mutation in September. The variant of concern has since been detected in at least 44 countries, including the U.S., which has reported its presence in 12 states.
Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that the modeled trajectory of the variant in the U.S. “exhibits rapid growth in early 2021, becoming the predominant variant in March.”