Nearly all new coronavirus cases in the United Kingdom are the Delta variant of the virus, a strain first identified in India and one worrying health officials in the United States, where it has been named a “variant of concern.”
Public Health England data shows that the Delta variant accounts for 99% of sequenced COVID-19 tests in the U.K. At least 33,630 cases of the variant were identified last week, bringing the U.K.’s total to at least 75,953 cases of the Delta strain.
Data also shows that there is an increased risk of hospitalization with the Delta variant.
As of June 14, PHE reports a total of 806 people in the hospital with the variant, an increase of 423 since last week.
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Despite its severity, PHE said that two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine provides more than 90% protection against hospitalization. Of those hospitalized with the variant, 527 people were unvaccinated and just 84 people of the 806 had received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
While PHE says the case fatality rate is low for the Delta variant, it acknowledges that it is “too early to judge the case fatality of Delta” compared to the previously dominant strain in the U.K., referred to as Alpha, or other mutations of the virus.
Dr. Jenny Harries, chief executive of the U.K. Health Security Agency, said Delta cases are “rising rapidly across the country” and the “Delta variant is now dominant.”
“The increase is primarily in younger age groups, a large proportion of which were unvaccinated but are now being invited to receive the vaccine,” Harries said. “It is encouraging to see that hospitalizations and deaths are not rising at the same rate but we will continue to monitor it closely. The vaccination program and the care that we are all taking to follow the guidance are continuing to save lives.”
She urged those receiving COVID-19 vaccines to “make sure that you come forward to receive both doses.”
In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention upgraded the Delta variant to a “variant of concern” earlier this week because of its increased transmissibility. New research suggested that the variant nearly doubles the risk of hospitalization compared to the previously dominant strain in the U.K.
However, the study also found that two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca vaccine provide protection against the Delta strain.
The World Health Organization is also showing concern regarding the variant. Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist for WHO, said during a press conference that the strain is on its way to becoming the dominant mutation across the globe because of its “significantly increased transmissibility.”
WHO officials report that 80 countries have reported cases of the Delta variant, which the organization designated a variant of concern in early May.