For weeks, Britain has reported alarming coronavirus death numbers, hospitals have continued to fill up, and fears have risen that it will take months to control the spread of a more transmissible variant first detected in the Kent region of Englandlast year.

On Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at a news conference the new variant may also be associated with a slightly higher chance of death, even as he acknowledged it was too soon to be sure, and his own scientific advisers urged restraint in interpreting preliminary evidence.

Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said that the data indicating an increase in the risk of death in those infected with the new variant are preliminary and based on small numbers. The absolute risk of dying from Covid-19 still remains low.

“That evidence is not yet strong, it’s a series of different bits of information that come together to support that,” Mr. Vallance said.

according to government data. That amounts to about 8 percent of the population.

By comparison, the United States has vaccinated around 4.5 percent of its population, and most European countries have vaccinated less than 2 percent.

Fewer than 500,000 people in Britain have received a second injection,

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