Delta variant “40 per cent more transmissible”: UK Health Minister


Color scanning electron micrograph of an apoptotic cell (green) heavily infected with SARS-COV-2 virus particles (yellow), isolated from a patient sample. Image captured at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Credit: NIH / NIAID

The Delta variant of the coronavirus is estimated to be 40 per cent more transmissible than the Alpha variant that caused the latest wave of infections in the UK, the British Health Minister said on Sunday.

But people who have received two doses of vaccine should be equally protected against either variant, he added.

“That figure, about 40 percent more transmissible, is in fact the last piece of advice I have,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News.

The Delta variant, also known as the Indian variant, is now the dominant strain in the UK, according to data from Public Health England.

It was the Alpha variant, formerly known as the Kent variant, that forced the United Kingdom to close in January.

Hancock said the 40% figure came from the government body of scientific advisers, SAGE.

Concern is growing over whether the emergence of the Delta variant threatens the government’s provisional deadline of June 21 to lift virus restrictions.

Hancock acknowledged that the Delta variant “makes the calculation more difficult for June 21.”

“We will see the data for another week and then issue a judgment,” he told the BBC on Sunday, stressing that the government was “absolutely open” to delaying the removal of the restrictions.

Effective double vaccination

However, the minister stressed that those who have had two doses of vaccine should be protected from diseases of the Delta variant.

Public Health England said last month that research showed double vaccination was equally effective against Kent and Delta variants.

“The best scientific advice I have at this stage is that after a punch, it’s not as effective against the new Delta variant, but after both skin blows, yes,” Hancock told the BBC .

So far, hospitalizations are “largely flat,” with very few hospitalizations after receiving the two doses of vaccine, he added.

The UK has so far given more than 27 million people two doses, more than 50% of adults, while more than 40 million have had one dose.

Hancock said the government was “taking clinical advice” on whether to extend the vaccination program to children over 12, who are believed to play an important role in the spread of the virus. But that would not be mandatory, he added.

UK officials: effective vaccines against the Indian variant

© 2021 AFP

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