The Kent variant of coronavirus does not cause more severe cases of COVID-19, but its increased rate of transmission could still see more people die as a result of catching it, according to scientists at King’s College London (KCL).
There were fears that the strain, known as B.1.1.7, might be more dangerous in itself than its predecessor, in addition to being up to 70 percent more contagious.
The UK government had previously raised concern over the virulence of B.1.1.7, with its chief scientific advisor, Sir Patrick Vallance, telling a press briefing in London in January that it appeared to be more deadly.
That came after advice from the scientific group assisting the government, Nervtag, said it felt there was a “realistic possibility” the variant was more deadly, and could be immune to recently developed vaccines.
But a study by researchers at KCL, comparing mortality rates across the UK of 55,000 patients from September to December, found “no significant difference” between regions with lots of cases of B.1.1.7 in the south and east of the country, and areas with lower infection numbers.
They noted that symptoms indicating the severity of the disease also tended to correspond in patients with both variants.
They added that at a rate of 0.7 percent, the rate of reinfection cases in patients who had B.1.1.7 was effectively the same as patients with the original strain.