Shocking map reveals how Delta variant has run rampant in WEEKSJuly 7, 2021
THESE shocking maps reveal how rapidly the Delta variant has become in a matter of weeks – and are a forewarning of dangerous future strains.
Delta, first identified in India, makes up almost every new Covid case in the UK (95 per cent).
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But it only arrived on British soil in mid-April, mostly in international travellers.
It’s biological advantage of being able to spread faster than any other variant allowed it to become rampant.
With millions still unvaccinated, it was able to infect people even with some restrictions still in place.
Data from the Wellcome Sanger Institute reveals that in almost every local authority of England, the Delta variant is the most prominent strain.
Maps show that around a month ago – on May 29 – only a handful of places were dominated by Delta.
Scientists warned Delta was on course to overthrow the Alpha strain (Kent) that had been dominant in the UK since December/January.
And in no more than six weeks, the Delta strain went from a handful of cases to making up the majority of infections in the UK.
Cases per week are still highest in North West areas, where the Delta variant first hit.
Manchester is reporting almost 500 infections every seven days, according to the most recent data to June 26.
But other original hotposts like Bolton and Blackburn with Darwen have got caseloads right down, seeing 136 and 160 cases per week, respectively.
Other current hotspots include Birmingham (266), Liverpool (299) and a more surprising Cornwall (255).
The case numbers are not compared to population size (per 100,000), and so may not be reflective of the true outbreak size in each area.
Unlocking against a new variant
The Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to release England from the remaining lockdown restrictions despite the growth of Delta.
Around 25,000 people are being diagnosed with Covid each day in the UK at the moment, almost all of which will be Delta.
The PM is optimistic to go ahead with step four because vaccines still work against the Delta strain to protect against hospitalisations and deaths.
However, some scientists have not supported the move.
Dr Stephen Griffin, an associate professor in the School of Medicine, University of Leeds, said: “The collective loss of restrictions we are due to see in July will no doubt lead to a sharp increase in transmission.
“All the factors holding the Rt [R rate] of the Delta variant somewhat in check currently will be released, and we will get our first taste of just how infectious this virus really is.
“Sadly, already increasing hospitalisations will also accelerate, deaths will follow and many will develop long Covid.
“This seems to be a price the government are prepared to allow the public to pay, which I find incredible.”
He added Delta is able to transmit “far higher, even with restrictions holding some in check, than the original strain”.
Dr Peter English, a retired consultant in Communicable Disease Control and immediate past Chair of the BMA Public Health Medicine Committee, said: “Variants that can spread more effectively – like the Delta variant – have an advantage.
“This means that the virus can far more effectively seek out and find and infect people who are vulnerable.
“People who are partially vaccinated are less well protected against the now-prevalent Delta variant.”
On young people, he said: “We know that the infection can damage the lungs, brain, and other organs; and such damage may cause long-term or permanent impairment.
“Young people may carry such impairment for the rest of their lives.”
Now or never
Experts are particularly concerned that new variants like Delta may come along and be even worse.
Dr Hilary Jones said the new Lambda variant, first seen in Peru and now in Britain, is "of concern".
He told Good Morning Britain today: "Abandoning everything all at once when we are seeing rising cases is a recipe for trouble".
Dr Julian Tang, an honorary associate professor and clinical virologist, University of Leicester, said: “Vaccine escape variants are more likely to arise in a partially immune population.
“Opening international travel again will likely import new variants that may start to replicate in the UK population – and may recombine with existing variants here.”
However, he added: “But all of this is part of the process in ‘learning to live with the virus’ – and, as with flu, unfortunately, there will be casualties on the way.”
The PM has upheld the move to go ahead with “Freedom Day” with a “now or never” defense – although a final decision will not be made until July 12.
He said at Monday’s Downing Street Briefing: “To those who say we should delay again – the alternative to that is to open up in winter when the virus will have an advantage, or not at all this year.
“If we don’t go ahead now when the summer firebreak is coming up, the school holidays, all the advantages that that should give us in fighting the virus, then the question is, ‘when would we go ahead?’.
“Particularly given the likelihood the virus will have an extra advantage in the colder months, in the autumn, and in the winter.”
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