U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Friday that there's "some evidence" a surging COVID-19 variant may be more deadly than the original strain.
The B117 strain was first identified in London, and has since spread across the U.K. and arrived in other U.S. and other countries. "In addition to spreading more quickly, it also now appears that there is some evidence that the new variant ... may be associated with a higher degree of mortality," Johnson said in a Friday press conference.
Before Johnson's announcement, evidence suggested the variant was no more inherently deadly than the original COVID-19 strain. But evidence the U.K.'s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group assessed for the government shows that it could be up to 30 percent more deadly. Sir Patrick Vallance, the government's chief scientific advisor, cautioned that the data is "not yet strong," saying "there's a lot of uncertainty around these numbers and we need more work to get a precise handle on it."
Even if the variant is not necessarily more deadly, its rapid transmission rate could allow it to infect — and therefore kill — more people. Still, research suggests both major COVID-19 vaccines currently in distribution will still be just as effective against the new strain.