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US NIH monitoring UK Covid-19 variant but South African one ’more concerning’

Washington – The United States is closely watching the more infectious variant of Covid-19 after British officials warned that it may also be more deadly, US National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins said on Saturday.

But US health officials are somewhat more worried about a separate variant from South Africa, although that one has not yet been identified among US cases of the novel coronavirus, he told MSNBC in an interview.

Collins noted the UK’s data was preliminary, and said it was unclear why those with the UK variant faced a higher risk of death, whether by changes in the virus itself or other external causes such as pressures on the healthcare system.

“Let’s take this as something to watch closely,” he said.

Collins’ comments come as Democratic President Joe Biden takes the reins of the nation’s Covid-19 response, seeking to re-energize the fight against the highly infectious disease and urging a war-like stance. In a flurry of actions since taking office Wednesday, Biden unveiled a new US strategic plan to curtail the outbreak and signed numerous executive orders to boost vaccines and increase mask use, among other measures.

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