The Indian ‘Delta’ coronavirus variant is wreaking havoc in the UK – causing cases and hospitalizations to skyrocket – and a similar situation in the U.S. may not be far behind.
Infections have spiked 50 percent in a week across Great Britain and the number of people needing hospital treatment for COVID-19 is rising slowly in its wake, with more than 1,000 people now on wards with the virus.
A recent report from Public Health England (PHE) found that more than 90 percent of virus cases in the UK are now linked to the variant.
What’s more, nearly one-third of the 42 Britons who have died from the mutant had received two vaccine doses.
The numbers are leading Prime Minister Boris Johnson to announce that there will be a four-week delay to the end of the Covid lockdowns.
Experts warn that it is clear the variant is on the cusp of triggering a third wave in the UK and that the U.S. is bound to have a similar situation follow a few weeks later.
In the UK, the variant now makes up 90% of cases, and nearly one-third of the 42 Britons who have died from the mutant had received two vaccine doses
COVID-19 cases in the UK have spiked by 50% in a week and there has been a 15% increase in hospitalizations
The number of people dying each day of coronavirus remains relatively flat but the number of deaths is a lagging indicator and only expected to rise
In the U.S. the variant currently makes up about 10% of COVID-19 cases and appears to be following the same trajectory that the strain did in the UK
The variant, which was first identified in India and is known as B.1.617.2, currently makes up about 10 percent of all COVID-19 infections in America, up from six percent last week.
India’s Ministry of Health has labeled the variant a ‘double mutant’ because it carries two mutations: L452R and E484Q.
L452R is the same mutation seen with the California homegrown variant and E484Q is similar to the mutation seen in the Brazilian and South African variants.
Both of the mutations occur on key parts of the virus that allows it to enter and infect human cells.
Coronavirus cases have undeniably been rising in the UK, and quickly, in recent weeks after the ending of most lockdown rules on May 17 coincided with the takeover of the Indian Delta variant.
There was a 15% increase in the most recent week, from 875 new admissions by June 1 to 1,008 in the week to June 8
The average number of positive tests announced each day is now above 7,000 for the first time since the tail end of the second wave in March, after 7,490 cases were confirmed yesterday after 8,125 on Friday.
There were 50,017 cases confirmed between Monday and Sunday last week, a 50 per cent spike from 33,496 the week before.
Hospital admissions are creeping up across the UK and more notably in Delta variant hotspots.
The increase has been significantly slower than cases – there was a 15 percent increase in the most recent week, from 875 new admissions by June 1 to 1,008 in the week to June 8 – but this is likely an effect of the lag between someone getting infected and then getting sick enough to need hospital treatment.
A recent Public Health England report found one-third of those hospitalized with the variant had at least one vaccine dose and 29% of the 42 Britons who have died from the mutant were fully immunized
Places where infection rates with the Delta variant are comparatively high – Bedfordshire, London, Birmingham, Manchester and East Lancashire – had the highest admission rates in the most recent data but even those, the worst-hit hospitals, still had only five patients admitted on June 6.
A recent Public Health England report found that one-third of patients confirmed to have the variant visiting the hospital emergency room had least one vaccine dose.
Dr Eric Feigl-Ding, a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists tweeted on Monday that part of the reason for the rise in the UK is due to the country’s plan to separate two-dose vaccines by 12 weeks compared to the traditional three or four weeks.
‘The #DeltaVariant is truly a scourge. We saw what it did to India, and now we are seeing another wave in [UK] and hospitalizations increasing there, and #DeltaVariant rising in the US as well,’ he wrote.
‘The #DeltaVariant is what keeps me awake at night. It will blow up any country’s 1-dose vaccine sparing plan…because [one] dose isn’t enough. “EVERYONE 12+” needs to be fully [two] dose vaccinated.
In a report published last week it said the estimated protection from one dose of either jab has fallen from 50 percent against the Alpha (Kent) variant to just 33 per cent against Delta.
The reduction in protection after two doses is much smaller, with it falling from an estimated 88 percent to 81 percent.
The number of people dying each day of coronavirus remains relatively flat – the daily average reported deaths is nine and the figure has been between eight and 10 for the past three weeks.
But of the 42 Britons who have died from the strain thus far, 45 percent had received at lest one dose and 29 percent were fully vaccinated.
Former FDA commissioner Dr Scott Gottlieb warned on Sunday (above) that Delta is likely to become dominant in the U.S. and warned of a potential epidemic in the fall
Despite the strain’s continued spread CDC has still not classified it as a ‘variant of concern’ and merely refers to it as a ‘variant of interest’
Deaths usually take between two weeks and a month to react after a spike in cases because it can take people so long to die of COVID-19 after they test positive.
Although the success of the vaccines now means that there were will have to be significantly more cases per death compared to earlier waves of the virus, scientists still expect the number of fatalities to rise and fall along with infections – they just hope there will be fewer.
‘It’s well within the possibility that we could see another, third, wave at least comparable in terms of hospitalizations as the second wave. At least deaths, I think, certainly would be lower,’ Professor Neil Ferguson said last week.
This is great cause for concern in the U.S., where 64.4 percent of US adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
But at least five states – Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Wyoming – have immunized less than half of all over-18s.
‘I think in parts of the country where you have less vaccination – particularly in parts of the South, where you have some cities where vaccination rates are low – there’s a risk that you could see outbreaks with this new variant,’ former FDA commissioner Dr Scott Gottlieb told CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday.
‘We have the tools to control this and defeat it. We just need to use those tools.’
Meanwhile, the CDC still has not classified the Delta coronavirus strain as a ‘variant of concern’ even as it spreads across the U.S.
The variant currently makes up about 10 percent of all COVID-19 infections in America, up from six percent last week.
Despite evidence that it is highly transmissible as it ravages the UK, the CDC continues to call the mutant simply a ‘variant of interest,’ which means it is only ‘suspected’ to be more contagious rather than confirmed to be so.
‘Right now, in the United States, [the Delta variant makes up] about 10 percent of infections. It’s doubling every two weeks,’ Gottlieb said.
‘That doesn’t mean that we’re going to see a sharp uptick in infections, but it does mean that this is going to take over.
‘And I think the risk is really to the fall that this could spike a new epidemic heading into the fall.’