The country's vaccine program has begun, but don’t let your guard down just yet.
The highly transmissible COVID-19 B.1.1.7 variant, first discovered in Britain in late 2020, is between 30 and 100 percent more deadly than the previous dominant variants, researchers say.
This variant was detected in the country in January, with about 118 cases of it reported.
The study published in the British Medical Journal compared death rates among people in Britain infected with the B.1.1.7 variant with those infected with other variants of the COVID-19.
Scientists found that the mortality rate of the B.1.1.7 variant, which is now in over 100 countries, was “significantly higher.”
In the study, infection with the new variant brought 227 deaths among a sample of 54,906 COVID-19 patients, compared with 141 in a sample of the same number of patients that are infected with other variants.
It is also found that some of the 23 mutations in its genetic code, which is considered a relatively high number, spread more easily. The variant is about 40 to 70 percent transmissible compared to other variants that are circulating.
Experts say that the B.1.1.7 variant should be taken seriously, given its ability to spread rapidly and its significantly higher mortality rate.
Early this year, scientists of the UK’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group found evidence that there was a “realistic possibility” that the B1.1.7 variant had become more deadly. However, the group also said that the conclusion was “far from certain” as the data at the time was “not yet strong.”
Though the detailed mechanism behind why the B1.1.7 variant’s death rate is not yet clear, experts say it could be related to “higher levels of virus replication as well as increased transmissibility.”