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New coronavirus is more deadly – or maybe not

A just-released report from the UK government’s chief scientific adviser has made the claim that the new coronavirus variant first identified in southeast England and now circulating widely in England carries a higher risk of death than the original strain of coronavirus.

More specifically, he added, “for a man in his 60s with the original version of the virus, the average risk is that for 1,000 people who got infected, roughly 10 would be expected to unfortunately die,” but “with the new variant, for 1,000 people infected, roughly 13 or 14 people might be expected to die.”

He was quick to add that ” the data is still uncertain” but that part of his statement was mostly over-looked by most media and social site reports which, after all, know that doom-scrolling is what gets the eyes lit up.

So, here’s why it’s still not clearly obvious if this strain is indeed more deadly.

According to the team that came up with this analysis, the data “was based on 2,583 deaths among 1.2 million tested individuals, with 384 deaths likely tied to infections of the variant.”

First, and most important, this is the first report to have found this increased risk of death.

Second, this conclusion is based on a relatively small number of deaths that were analyzed at a time when the UK’s health system is under unbelievably immense stress so that, some experts have pointed out, the level of care for some very sick patients with COVID-19 was not what it could have been under better circumstances, which means that if British ICUs (not to mention the staff in those units) had been under less stress, it could be that some of those very sick patients might not have died.

Nevertheless, this clearly needs very intense and quick follow-up because this UK variant is here in Canada and will likely spread more widely before too long.