June 11, 2021 -- A new report from Public Health England shows how swiftly the highly transmissible delta strain has become the dominant COVID-19 variant in the United Kingdom.
About 90% of new COVID-19 cases in the U.K. involve the delta variant, otherwise known as B.1.617.2, the PHE report says. The report shows the number may be as high as 96%.
The delta variant is about 60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant, B.220.127.116.11, which dominated the U.K. last fall, the report says.
Cases are doubling between 4.5 and 11.5 days, depending on the region, with confirmed cases of the variant rising from 29,892 to 42,323 since June 2, per the PHE report, which notes that the quick increase in cases is partly due to new, speedier testing methods.
Previously, positive samples were sent to labs for whole genome testing, which took 5-10 days to deliver results, The Guardian reported. Results can be obtained in about 48 hours with genotyping, in which only key sections of the sample are examined.
Jenny Harries, chief executive of the U.K. Health Security Agency, urged people to become fully vaccinated amid the continued spread of the concerning variant
“With numbers of delta variant cases on the rise across the country, vaccination is our best defence,” Harries said in the PHE report. “If you are eligible, we urge you to come forward and be vaccinated. Remember that 2 doses provide significantly more protection than a single dose.”
Not being vaccinated increases chances of being hospitalized or dying, officials stressed in the report. Of the 42 people who had the delta variant and died, 23 were unvaccinated, seven had received only one dose, and 12 had received two doses more than 2 weeks before.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization's (WHO) regional director of Europe, Hans Henri Kluge, warned that the delta variant could spread across the continent if the U.K. doesn’t get it under control.
“The new delta variant of concern, which shows increased transmissibility and some immune escape, is poised to take hold in the region, while many among vulnerable populations above the age of 60 remain unprotected,” Kluge said during a press conference on Thursday, according to The Hill website.
The delta variant is behind a surge in cases and deaths in India, where it was first identified. In the United States, it’s responsible for about 6% of cases, health officials say.