Is Covid variant raging through UK more lethal?
Research suggests B.1.1.7 deadlier, but fatality rates still lower than when pandemic began
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How will the higher risk of mortality affect individuals?
The central estimate is that B.1.1.7 carries a 30 to 40 per cent higher chance of dying. The impact of this relative risk on an individual will depend critically on his or her absolute risk — determined above all by age and then by underlying health and other factors. The evidence considered by Nervtag suggests that the variant increases case fatality rates consistently across all age groups.
Sir Patrick took men in their 60s as an example. The average risk was that about 10 in every 1,000 would be expected to die from the infection with the old virus; with the new variant, 13 or 14 would die.
For healthy children and young adults, who are extremely unlikely to die from Covid-19, the additional lethality of B.1.1.7 would have a tiny effect on their absolute risk. Conversely, it would have a big impact on people over 80 who were already at high risk.
It is worth remembering that fatality rates are already considerably lower than they were in the first wave of the pandemic in the spring, because health workers have learned how best to treat Covid-19 patients, including when to give dexamethasone steroid to those who are severely ill. Even if the new variant raises risk of death by 35 per cent, it would still be lower than for someone with the original form of the virus back in March.