Kent variant could be twice as deadly as previous Covid strains, new research shows
The worrying findings in the British Medical Journal based on analysis of 110,000 Covid-19 patients suggests the UK will have to live with high death rates for some time, with the Kent variant found to be deadlier than previous coronavirus variants
The Kent variant now dominant in Britain could be twice as deadly as previous coronavirus variants, research shows.
The findings in the British Medical Journal based on analysis of 110,000 Covid-19 patients suggests the UK will have to live with high death rates for some time.
Epidemiologists from the universities of Exeter and Bristol identified 227 deaths in a sample of 55,000 NHS patients with the Kent variant.
This compared to 141 deaths in a similar sample of patients with older variants.
Following detailed analysis they concluded the variant called B.1.1.7 is between 30% and 100% as deadly.
Researchers stressed that the real increase in mortality risk is likely somewhere in the middle of these two figures.
Lead author Robert Challen, of the University of Exeter said: “In the community, death from Covid-19 is still a rare event, but the B.1.1.7 variant raises the risk.
“Coupled with its ability to spread rapidly this makes B.1.1.7 a threat that should be taken seriously.”
The Kent variant was first detected in the UK in September 2020, has been identified as being significantly quicker and easier to spread.
It was the justification for Boris Johnson to belatedly introduction new lockdown rules across the UK from January.
The Prime Minister announced the Kent variant could kill 30% more people during a Downing Street briefing on January 22.
However back then Chief Medical Officer Prof Chris Whitty stated there was still a lot of uncertainty over the estimate.
Co-author Leon Danon, from the University of Bristol said: “We focussed our analysis on cases that occurred between November 2020 and January 2021, when both the old variants and the new variant were present in the UK.
“This meant we were able to maximise the number of ‘matches’ and reduce the impact of other biases. Subsequent analyses have confirmed our results.
“SARS-CoV-2 appears able to mutate quickly, and there is a real concern that other variants will arise with resistance to rapidly rolled out vaccines.
“Monitoring for new variants as they arise, measuring their characteristics and acting appropriately needs to be a key part of the public health response in the future.”
Co-author Ellen Brooks-Pollock, from the University of Bristol, added: “It was fortunate the mutation happened in a part of the genome covered by routine testing. Future mutations could arise and spread unchecked”.