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Misleading: Deadlier UK COVID Variant

Christopher Frawley Christopher Frawley
26th March 2021
Misleading: Deadlier UK COVID Variant
The risk of death varies (Getty Images).

The Claim

The B.1.1.7 variant of the coronavirus (more commonly known as the “UK strain”) is much deadlier than the original strain. 

Emerging story

The world has seen the emergence of several new strains of COVID-19 in recent months, which may pose new challenges. Amongst the most well-known of these strains has recently been studied is the B.1.1.7 variant, which spreads more easily than the original. Concern over this fact, as well as the increased lethality of the strain, have likewise been spreading. 

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Misbar’s Analysis

Recent studies conducted across UK populations have found that the B.1.1.7 variant is potentially more deadly. However, the risk of a fatality is still centered amongst older demographics or people with underlying conditions which make them more susceptible to the virus. The increased risk does not translate across all cases and demographics.

Although many publications have been throwing around frightening headlines such as “COVID: UK variant up to 100 percent more deadly, study finds,” the reality of that statement is less overwhelming. 

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According to this recent study in the British Medical Journal, the risk of death varies from 32% to 104%. On average, a mixed group of 1000 cases will have approximately 1.6 more deaths than with the original strain. 

By no means do we at Misbar wish to undermine the danger posed by new variants of the virus. However, it must be said that highly sensationalized headlines can lead to panic and fear due to not knowing the facts of the situation. Even if an article goes on to explain the nuance of the situation, it is not a good excuse for misleading readers.

For example, this article is titled “Study finds COVID-19 U.K. variant 55 per cent more lethal, as ICU admissions in Ontario creep up.” The gravity of this headline is then watered down with a subtitle quote stating “We don’t want this 55 per cent number to scare people into thinking ‘this is a big risk for me,’ unless people are elderly or otherwise very sick.” 

The problem with this is that many people will read the headline of an article and share it on social media before reading the entirety of the article itself. Doing so with a topic as serious as emerging coronavirus strains is a dangerous way to spread misinformation. 

Misbar’s Classification


Misbar’s Sources

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