Delta variant found to be behind India's second Covid wave: 10 updates

James Marshall
June 5, 2021

The so-called Nepal variant is believed to be a mutated version of the Indian variant, with a spike mutation, known as K417N.

The Ministry of Health also denied that any new variant of coronavirus had been detected so far in the country.

The variant of coronavirus first identified in India is now the dominant strain in the UK, Public Health England (PHE) has said.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said concerns around "a sort of Nepal mutation of the Indian variant that's been detected" and a rise in case numbers were a cause for concern.

Of the 12,431 Delta variant cases confirmed so far in the United Kingdom, 10,797 of these are in England, 1,511 in Scotland, 97 in Wales and 26 in Northern Ireland.

Dr. Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency said: "With this variant now dominant across the UK, it remains vital that we all continue to exercise as much caution as possible".

Data from PHE shows that 278 people infected with the Delta variant visited A&E in the most recent week, with 94 of these then being admitted into hospital overnight.

The latest statistics have led experts to conclude that Delta is now closing in to overtake Alpha - the VOC first detected in the Kent region of England.

A PHE risk assessment found that vaccines were less effective against the strain compared to the Kent mutation - or Alpha variant.

"The way to tackle variants is to tackle the transmission of Covid-19 as a whole".

Dr Jeff Barrett, director of the COVID-19 Genomics Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said there have been 91 sequences observed of the Indian variant containing this specific mutation.

He said 60% is "a good central estimate" at the moment, telling the BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Unfortunately, I mean, the news is not as positive as I would like on any respect about the Delta variant".

"WHO is not aware of any new variant of SARS-CoV-2 being detected in Nepal".

Professor Neil Ferguson, who sits on the government's New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NervTag), said on Friday that the mutation "may compromise vaccine effectiveness".

Vaccine efficacy is a sliding scale, so the question isn't "does a vaccine work or not?" but rather: "what proportion of infections, serious disease, or deaths does the jab prevent?" "It will save lives", she said.

Meanwhile, new laboratory data published on Thursday suggests that people who have received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine have fewer antibodies targeting the Indian variant - although real-world data is needed to confirm this.

PHE says there is now "no data" on the vaccines' ability to prevent severe illness from the Indian variant.

But Ian Jones, professor of virology at the University of Reading, says the suggestion of increased severity "needs to be taken with a big dose of salt". The study, which is still ongoing, revealed that there are more than 12,200 "variants of concern" in India.

All viruses undergo small genetic changes as they make copies of themselves in the host.

There are thousands of variants of coronavirus but public health experts focus only on those that have worrying looking mutations or are showing signs of being more unsafe.

The Government has also begun negotiations with AstraZeneca to secure a "variant vaccine" that can tackle the South African variant.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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