Research suggests B.1.1.7 is more likely to result in death, but fatality rates are still lower than when pandemic began
Amid good news about Covid-19 vaccination rates increasing and infections beginning to fall, Boris Johnson shocked listeners to his press briefing on Friday with an unexpected announcement that the more contagious new variant of coronavirus is also 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 out from south-east England and across the UK, they had said it was around 50 per cent more transmissible but seemed not to cause more severe symptoms.
How strong is the new evidence that the variant is killing a higher proportion of the people it infects?
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.