Updated: Feb 28
The new Delta variant (India strain) of the Covid-19 virus threatens Europe with a new wave by the end of this summer.
Delta variant now accounts for approximately 95% of cases across the UK, making it the dominant strain of the virus in the country, reported GOV.UK. The European Centrе for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) estimates that, based on the current transmission average of the Delta variant, 70% of new Covid-19 infections in the European Union are projected to be due to this variant by early August and 90% of infections by the end of August.
How the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant emerged?
Mutation is a natural evolution step for viruses. With every change they produce variants of themselves. While there can sometimes be no cause for concern, a mutated strain of a virus can become more dangerous and dominant than the original.
The strain of Covid-19 identified in India, known as the B.1.617.2, was first found in October 2020 and has since infected people in over 85 countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Since 11 May it is considered a Variant of Concern (VOC). To be a VOC the strain needs to have shown an increase in transmissibility, increase in virulence and decrease in effectiveness of public health measures.
What is the new Delta plus variant?
The Delta variant was reported to have further mutated into a new strain called the “Delta Plus” variant. The WHO is still tracking reports on the new strain, but what it essentially means is that an additional mutation has been identified. India has dubbed Delta Plus a “variant of concern,” and there are fears that it could potentially be more transmissible, CNBC reports.
In a live Q&A with the World Health Organization on 16 June, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove emphasized on the importance of testing, especially with the more widely available Rapid Antigen tests. The key to diminishing these fitter variants is to lower the rate of transmissibility, which is best done through rigours testing (which allows early detection), wearing protective masks and maintaining as much distance as possible in any social situation.
The Covid-19 pandemic is nowhere near over. Learn more about where the fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic is already soaring.
How dangerous is the Delta variant?
According to the World Health Organization, the Delta variant is probably going to become the new dominant strain, as it is much more transmissible. The Delta Plus however can turn out to be even more dangerous. It binds more easily to lung cells and is potentially resistant to monoclonal antibody therapy, BBC news reports. Thankfully there are still very few cases around the world for any serious concern. Nevertheless, the Delta Plus variant does need to be monitored and the WHO believes genomic sequencing in countries around the world needs to increase to properly track the variant.
WHO experts assure that the vaccines, while rendered less effective by the newer variants, can still protect against severe infection, hospitalisation and death. They also recommend getting both doses to ensure better protection.
How to recognize the Delta variant?
The Delta variant is showing more similarities in symptoms as a cold, which makes it difficult for people to know if they have Covid-19. According to BBC News, the most common symptoms are: headache, sore throat, runny nose and fever. While the fever is a constant, the loss of taste and smell and a cough are less common in this variant.
Recommended safety measures
With Delta variant estimated to account for 90% of infections by the end of August 2021, regular testing, wearing masks in crowded public areas and getting vaccinated should still be routine. In the words of the WHO: “No one is safe until everyone is safe”.