New Covid variant has 'higher degree of mortality', warns PM

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVI

Prime minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on Friday. - Credit: PA Video/PA Wire

Boris Johnson has warned that the new variant of coronavirus has "a higher degree of mortality", according to scientific evidence.

The prime minister was speaking at a press conference at Downing Street on Friday, and began by saying the government has "tried to update you as soon as possible about changes in scientific data and analysis".

He warned that it "now appears there is some evidence that the new variant that was first identified in London and the south east, may be associated with a higher degree of mortality", as well as being more transmissible.

Mr Johnson said the 38,562 Covid patients in hospital is 78pc higher than in the first peak in April.

The prime minister said: "It's more important than ever that we all remain vigilant in following the rules and that we stay at home, protect the NHS and thereby save lives."

He added: "All current evidence continues to show that both the vaccines we're currently using remain effective both against the old variant and this new variant."

He also said that 5.4m across the UK have now received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, with 400,000 jabs given out in the last 24 hours, which Mr Johnson said was a record.

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The number of Covid-19 patients in hospital in England stood at 33,412 as of 8am on Friday January 22, according to the latest figures from NHS England.

This is slightly below the record 34,336 patients on January 18, and up just 0.1pc on a week ago.

A total of 3,679 hospital admissions of people with Covid-19 in England were reported for January 20, NHS England also said.

This is down 4pc on the equivalent figure a week ago on January 13.

During the first wave of the virus, admissions peaked at 3,099 on April 1, 2020.

England's chief medical officer Chris Whitty said there has been "a turning of the corner" in terms of the number of people catching the virus, but warned that this was coming down from an "exceptionally high level".

He added that there have been signs of a slight reduction of people in hospital in the east of England, the south east and London.

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