Dubbed the ‘Kent variant’, one particular mutation of COVID-19 has been estimated to be 70 percent more transmissible and linked to higher mortality rates. Having grown to become the dominant strain in the UK, the new variant led to the introduction of lockdowns over the Christmas and New Year period. Now a prominent health expert, Professor Neil Ferguson has suggested to ITV’s Robert Peston that this new coronavirus variant, along with other similar strains, has been responsible for up to half of all deaths in the UK from the pandemic.
Speaking on ITV’S PESTON, the epidemiologist warned the country needed to be “very cautious” about the potential for new variants from both in and outside of the country.
He said: “I certainly agree that we have to be very cautious around variants,
“My overall, I would say quite optimistic tone, is caveated strongly by the potential impact variants might have and we have to be cautious at the borders,
“But we also have to be cautious that the variant we are living with now which is responsible in some ways probably half the deaths we have experienced now in the pandemic in this country,
“And is the reason we have suffered quite so badly in the last few months,” he added.
“That arose in this country and the virus is mutating all the time.
“So the faster we can drive down infections and then monitor to see if variants arise
“Even in travellers but also within our own country that better.”
Professor Ferguson’s stark comments come only days after a mass testing regime was launched following the discovery of the South African variant of coronavirus in Essex.
It comes as Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Jenny Harries told the Number 10 coronavirus briefing on Wednesday the UK Government was looking at and monitoring variants of concern, including the Kent variant.
She said: “We look at the different variants regularly and we have variants of interest and concern.
“Those are being monitored, you will be aware that the UK probably has the best genomics functionality in the world.
“We are contributing to world science on that so it is absolutely watched all the time.”