BORIS JOHNSON ADMITS UK COVID VIRUS STRAIN IS DEADLIER
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has blamed the new variant identified in southeast England for the grim situation engulfing Britain, adding the new COVID-19 strain is more deadly and more transmissible, James Pheby and Joe Jackson reported for Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The sobering news came as the UK sees record deaths from COVID-19, following a surge in cases and hospitalisations since the variant was first identified in southeast England in September.
The strain has also spread to more than 60 nations -- including China, where the pandemic began more than a year ago -- according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
"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 at a news conference.
He blamed the variant for the grim situation engulfing Britain, where another 1,401 fatalities were announced Friday, taking the overall toll to 95,981 -- the highest in Europe.
Virus deaths have risen 16 percent over the past week, while the number of people hospitalised with COVID-19 is approaching double the number seen during the worst days of the first wave of the pandemic in April.
Chief government scientist Patrick Vallance said the new variant could be 30-40 percent more deadly for some age groups, although he stressed the assessment relied on sparse data.
WEEKLY FEATURE : JOSE MARI CHAN AND THE CHRISTMAS ANTHEM