Coronavirus: Indian ‘Delta’ variant may raise hospital risk, Public Health England warns


Indian variant poses an increased risk of hospitalisation and its prevalence is increasing across Britain – but 73% of cases are in unvaccinated people, new government report reveals

  • The variant ‘significantly’ increases the risk of hospital admission by up to 2.5 times, according to PHE
  • Officials are now more sure that the variant spreads faster than the Kent strain but still not sure by how much 
  • Another 5,400 cases have been spotted, with case numbers exploding to more than 12,000 in just weeks
  • Public Health England confirmed for the first time that the strain is dominant in Britain, overtaking Kent
  • Vaccines do appear to work well against it, however, although a single dose is less effective than against B117 

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The Indian ‘Delta’ variant appears more likely to put people in hospital than other versions of Covid, Public Health England said today as it announced another 5,472 cases. 

PHE confirmed the strain is now dominant in the UK and makes up around 73 per cent of cases, displacing the Kent variant which sparked the second wave in January.

There have been a total of 12,431 confirmed infections with the variant, known to scientists as B1617.2, and 94 people were admitted to hospital with it last week. The report said the risk of being admitted to hospital could increase by as much as 2.6 times over the Kent variant, and people may be 70 per cent more likely to go to A&E. 

That count of hospital admissions was double the week before, when 201 people went to A&E and 43 were admitted overnight. PHE said: ‘The majority of these had not been vaccinated.’

Vaccines still appear to work against the strain, PHE said, although it was concerned that a single dose could be up to 20 per cent less effective than it was against the Kent variant.

Dr Jenny Harries, chief of the UK Health Security Agency, said: ‘Please come forward to be vaccinated and make sure you get your second jab. It will save lives.’

Seventeen people are confirmed to have died from the mutant strain by May 23. Of these, 11 were un-vaccinated, three had received one dose, two had both doses and it could not be established whether one individual had received a vaccine.

This Public Health England graph shows how the number of cases of the Indian variant (dark green line) has exploded since it was first found, spreading faster than any other strain did over the same time after its discovery

This Public Health England graph shows how the number of cases of the Indian variant (dark green line) has exploded since it was first found, spreading faster than any other strain did over the same time after its discovery 

The PHE report showed that the proportion of cases being caused by the Indian variant has rocketed in all regions of the country.

It is highest in the North West where nearly 100 per cent of cases are being caused by the strain.

Officials have become more confident that the variant has a ‘substantially increased growth rate’ compared to the Kent strain and that they have data ‘supporting a reduction in vaccine effectiveness’.

They estimated that one dose of a jab was about 15 to 20 per cent less effective against the strain than against the Kent variant, but that two doses appeared to still work well. 

But they admitted to ‘a high level of uncertainty around the magnitude of the change in vaccine effectiveness after 2 doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.’ 

Dr Harries added: ‘With this variant now dominant across the UK, it remains vital that we continue to exercise caution particularly while we learn more about transmission and health impacts.

‘The way to tackle variants is to use the same measures to reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19 we have used before. Work from home where you can, and practise hands, face, space, fresh air at all times.

‘If you are eligible and have not already done so, please come forward to be vaccinated and make sure you get your second jab. It will save lives.’

Bolton remains the hotspot for cases of the Delta strain, with 2,149 cases recorded so far by PHE, followed by 724 in Blackburn with Darwen. Both remain among the places with the highest infection rates in the country.

PHE said: ‘There are encouraging signs that the transmission rate in Bolton has begun to fall and that the actions taken by residents and local authority teams have been successful in reducing spread.’

The PHE report showed that the proportion of cases being caused by the Indian variant has rocketed in all regions of the country. It is highest in the North West where nearly 100 per cent of cases are being caused by the strain

The PHE report showed that the proportion of cases being caused by the Indian variant has rocketed in all regions of the country. It is highest in the North West where nearly 100 per cent of cases are being caused by the strain

The PHE report showed that the proportion of cases being caused by the Indian variant has rocketed in all regions of the country. It is highest in the North West where nearly 100 per cent of cases are being caused by the strain

PHE confirmed the strain is now dominant in the UK and makes up around 73 per cent of cases, displacing the Kent variant which sparked the second wave in January

PHE confirmed the strain is now dominant in the UK and makes up around 73 per cent of cases, displacing the Kent variant which sparked the second wave in January

PHE confirmed the strain is now dominant in the UK and makes up around 73 per cent of cases, displacing the Kent variant which sparked the second wave in January

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