A highly infectious strain of Covid, which has already landed on our shores, has put the UK on high alert this week in what’s emerging as a stark warning to the rest of the world.
Health officials are still scrambling to find the source of several mystery Covid cases from Melbourne, with fears the Delta strain could be spreading here. The state on Sunday confirmed four new local coronavirus cases, taking the number of cases in the outbreak to 72. With six new cases in hotel quarantine, the number of active cases in Victoria is 87.
The latest cases include a teacher linked to the West Melbourne outbreak, an employee of a Port Melbourne finance company and two in aged care at Melbourne’s Arcare Maidstone facility.
“It is a variant of significant concern,” Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton said of the Delta strain, pointing out that the spread of the variant has been rapid overseas.
“Indeed almost the exclusive variant there (India) and in surrounding countries — Nepal, Bangladesh (and) Sri Lanka. All are also affected by a significant uptick in cases related to that variant.”
The variant has now spread to at least 62 countries, with outbreaks surging in Asia and Africa despite a 15 per cent week-on-week drop in global cases, the World Health Organisation has warned.
“We continue to observe significantly increased transmissibility and a growing number of countries reporting outbreaks associated with this variant,” the WHO said of the Delta strain, CNBC reports.
On Saturday India recorded 114,818 new Covid cases, along with 2241 deaths over the past 24 hours, however the number of active cases has now dropped to 40 per cent of the number reached at the peak of the country’s second wave. It surpassed 300,000 deaths in May, the third country in the world to hit that figure.
Now, the Delta variation is taking hold in the UK and threatening to put the country on a backwards slide. It has now become the UK’s most dominant Covid strain, with cases rising 70 per cent in the past week.
There have been another 5765 new covid infections recorded in the UK over the past 24 hours, and 13 deaths, bringing the total fatalities to 127,836, The Sun reports.
The Delta mutation is believed to be a super spreader, which is much more transmissible than the previous variant of the virus which gripped the UK last December and now poses a serious threat to the country’s reopening plans.
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Despite British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s pledge to reopen the country by June 21, minster are working on plans to move “Freedom Day” to next month and retaining distancing and limits on fans in stadiums, a move which is sparking concerns England’s hosting of the euros could be plunged into chaos.
It comes as a Public Health England report shows that those who tested positive for the Delta variant were at 161 per cent more risk of needing to be admitted to hospital within a fortnight. There are also reports of it causing serious illness in children.
Professor Neil Ferguson, an infectious disease researcher from London’s Imperial College whose data modelling was key to the UK’s March lockdown, said the variant could be up to 100 per cent more transmissible than other strains.
“Unfortunately, the news is not as positive as I would like on any respect about the Delta variant,” Mr Fergusson told BBC radio 4’s Today program. “The best estimate at the moment is this variant may be 60 per cent more transmissible than the Alpha variant.
“There’s some uncertainty around that depending on assumption and how you analyse the data, between about 30 per cent and maybe even up to 100 per cent more transmissible.
“Certainly substantially more transmissible.”
Chief Executive of NHS Providers told BBC Breakfast that many of those in hospital in Bolton – which has the highest number of cases of Delta – were younger than those from previous waves of the pandemic. However, he says the Covid vaccine seems to have “broken the chain” between those who catch Covid becoming seriously ill.
It comes as research published in The Lancet Journal shows that people fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine are likely to have five times lower levels of antibodies against the Delta variant compared to the original strain.