UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his health advisers claimed that the UK’s ‘super-covid’ variant may be between 30 and 40 percent more deadly than older forms of the virus – but gave no proof for his alarming warning.
The variant is now in at least 60 countries, including the US, where it has been detected in at least 20 states.
Scientists widely believe the variant, known as B117 is more infectious, but the consensus of the global scientific community thus far has been that while it is about 70 percent more infectious, it is not more deadly.
The UK health ministry’s Friday warning contradicts what top US infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci said less than 24 hours earlier.
Explaining the risk change out loud without presenting data to prove the terrifying development after it was leaked to ITV political editor Robert Peston before the briefing, chief UK scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said that hospital data had suggested the variant could increase the risk of death for a man his 60s from one percent to 1.3 percent, but he admitted ‘the evidence is not yet strong’.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his health advisers claimed the the UK’s ‘super-covid’ variant may be between 30 and 40 percent more deadly than older forms of the virus – but gave no proof for his alarming warning.
A 30 percent increase in the risk of death does not mean 30 per cent of people will die, but is a relative increase, Sir Patrick explained.
The doom-mongering came despite an array of statistics that showed the second wave appears to have peaked already and be coming under control, although SAGE warned there are still ‘dangerously high’ levels of infection.
SAGE today said Britain’s R rate has fallen below the crucial level of one as separate experts estimated daily cases have halved in a fortnight and the Department of Health’s own statistics show daily infections have fallen every day for almost two weeks. Another 40,261 positive tests were recorded today, down almost 30 per cent in a week. Officials also recorded 1,401 fatalities, up just 9.5 per cent on last Friday.
Defying mounting pressure to commit to easing the current measures, Mr Johnson warned today that the NHS is still under huge pressure and the curbs will only be lifted when it is ‘safe’. Downing Street was warned it faces the ‘mother of all battles’ next month when it has to discuss relaxing the restrictions.
The 70-strong Covid Recovery Group of Conservative MPs is urging the government to start lifting the lockdown no later than March 8 – when vaccines given to the most vulnerable groups should have taken effect.
But No10’s refusal to give an exact day for when lockdown will end may have been fuelled by worrying findings from scientists feeding into SAGE who sounded the alarm about the possible increased death risk of the variant.
‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson, the Imperial College London epidemiologist whose grim modelling warned hundreds of thousands of Britons could die without action back in March, told ITV it is a ‘realistic possibility’ the new variant increases the risk of death.
The variant has already been spotted in 60 countries, including the US, Australia, India, China and Saudi Arabia. But the Government’s top scientific advisers believe the current crop of vaccines will work against the variant – but may be less effective against other South African and Brazilian mutations.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has sensationally claimed to travel agents in a private zoom call that vaccines may be 50 per cent less effective on the South African variant, claiming that the information was in the public domain but admitted ‘I wouldn’t say this in public’ as he failed to provide evidence, MailOnline revealed today.
And grim figures laying bare the other economically-crippling side of lockdown reveal business activity has fallen even more than expected this month, leaving the UK looking down the barrel of a double dip recession. Number 10 borrowed more than £34billion in December – the third highest monthly total ever – as it scrambles to keep millions of jobs and stricken firms afloat while tax revenues dwindle.
Instead Cabinet ministers are embroiled in an unseemly squabble over whether to pump up financial support further and toughen rules at UK borders. A leaked plan from Matt Hancock’s Department of Health would see everyone who tests positive for coronavirus given £500 in cash to self-isolate.
The idea, which could cost half a billion pounds a week, is meant to bolster low levels of compliance – but officials at Rishi Sunak’s Treasury branded it ‘bonkers’, while No10 effectively disowned the proposal, saying the PM had not seen it.
Meanwhile, the powerful Covid O Cabinet committee is due to made a decision on introducing ‘quarantine hotels’ next week – with all arrivals potentially forced to isolate for 10 days at airports in a bid to prevent more Covid ‘super-strains’ being imported.
Worrying strains around the world: Since the Covid pandemic began there have been at least six new stains which appear more infectious and have mutations that open the door to vaccine resistance