To figure out where the Delta variant has been found in the UK, surge testing is taking place around the country.
This new Covid-19 variant was first discovered in India and following classification by the World Health Organisation (WHO), it's now called the Delta variant. This new mutation found its way to the UK in March this year but currently the Pfizer (opens in new tab), Moderna and Oxford vaccines (opens in new tab) are proven to be effective against it. However, with the government delaying the end of lockdown (opens in new tab) on June 21 due to a huge spike in cases, the prospect of going back into lockdown (opens in new tab) remains on the horizon.
The Delta variant is now dominant in England, with warnings that some parts of the UK could go into a circuit breaker lockdown (opens in new tab). Those living in places where the variant is most prevalent have been advised to keep up social distancing measures, partake in increased testing and come forward for vaccinations.
Where has the Delta variant been found in the UK?
Every local authority council in England now has cases of the new Delta variant, apart from the Isles of Scilly, according to Public Health England (PHE) (opens in new tab). Although infections are most common in the north west of England, they are now spread out across the country.
The government has put further measures in place in the following councils to combat the spread of Covid-19:
- Blackburn with Darwen
- Leicester City
- London (Hounslow)
- North Tyneside
- Ribble Valley
- South Ribble
- West Lancashire
Those living in areas of concern will have been alerted that surge testing is taking place. This is either conducted by door-to-door healthcare workers or personally, with a lateral flow test (opens in new tab) and if positive, a follow-up PCR test. Researchers have also outlined new symptoms of the Delta variant (opens in new tab) for people to look out for.
The NHS has also been working to call up more people for their first and second vaccinations. Earlier this month in Bolton alone, 6,200 people had their first jab early. The rise in new variants is also partially why children may get the Covid vaccine soon, as although they are rarely unwell themselves, young people can pass on the virus to others.
However, there have been warnings against people trying to get their second Covid vaccine early (opens in new tab).
Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed the growing danger of the new variant. He said, “We must be humble in the face of this virus. We’ve all learnt over the past year that in a pandemic, we must not just look at where we are today but where the evidence shows we may be in weeks and months down the track.”
In most parts of England, cases of the Delta variant are doubling every 4.5 to 11.5 days. The West Midlands and Yorkshire are experiencing the fastest growing rates of the virus, according to PHE. However, the new variant is still most prominent in the North West of England. Blackburn and Darwen had the highest seven-day infection rate, ending on June 9. Health officials in the area recorded 1,082 positive cases per 100,000 people.
Bolton and Rossendale also have high case numbers, coming in at 797 and 672 respectively for the same week.
The areas around these hotspots are also now seeing a huge increase in the number of Delta cases. Of the 291 local authorities who recorded five or more cases in the last week, infections had increased in 177 of them. Cheshire West and Chester, Gateshead and Leeds all had the largest growth.
In May, Matt Hancock added that the majority of the people in hospital with Covid-19 in Bolton were eligible to have a vaccine - but had not had one.
“This shows the new variant is not tending to penetrate into older, vaccinated groups and it underlines again the importance of getting the jab.”
The emergence of this new variant comes just as the majority of social restrictions lifting in the UK, following the last lockdown review on May 17 (opens in new tab). From this date, groups of six or two households have been able to meet indoors (opens in new tab) and up to 30 can meet outside.
There was also a change in the lockdown travel rules (opens in new tab) to allow people coming back from ‘green list’ countries to freely enter the country without quarantine.
Where is the Delta variant in London?
The Delta variant has been found in all London boroughs, however, these are where cases are most high:
- Hillingdon (surge testing is targeting areas within the HA4 postcode in Ruislip).
- Hackney (surge testing is targeting areas in Shoreditch and Dalston).
- Kingston Upon Thames
- Redbridge (surge testing is taking place in areas within the IG1 and IG6 postcode areas and small parts of the IG5 and IG7 postcode areas).
- Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (surge testing is targeting areas within the W11 postcode).
London mayor Sadiq Khan confirmed the presence of the virus in five London boroughs. However, PHE has said that there are actually clusters of the new variant across the whole of the capital.
A spokesperson for PHE told the i paper (opens in new tab) that London should expect further surge testing in the coming days, as the new variant is "pretty well spread in terms of distribution".
They also confirmed that 105 of the 400 confirmed cases of the new variant in London were to do with travel. "The vast majority of the rest" came from household transmission or "very close contacts of those people who have travelled."
"We'll probably see more surge testing across the country for the Delta variant as we go down the line," They added, following the news from scientists last week that the new strain could very well become dominant across the whole of the UK.
Where has the Delta Plus variant been found in the UK?
According to PHE, there are 41 cases of the new Delta plus variant in the UK. This is out of the 75,953 Delta cases across the country.
Experts have repeatedly warned that Covid-19, much like other viruses, will mutate over time. Some variants pose more of a risk than others though, as they may contain properties which avoid the immune system's response to the virus which, in turn, makes the vaccines less effective.
India's health ministry have said (opens in new tab) that studies show the Delta plus variant - also known as AY.1 - does spread more easily, binds to lung cells more easily and is potentially resistant to some antibody therapies. However, leading virologists have questioned whether the Delta plus variant needs to be a 'variant of concern', as there's no evidence yet to suggest that it is in fact more infectious or causes more severe disease.
"There is no data yet to support the variant of concern claim," said Dr Gagandeep Kang, a virologist and Fellow of the Royal Society of London. "You need biological and clinical information in order to consider whether it is truly a variant of concern."
So far, PHE have said that two doses of both the Oxford vaccine and the Pfizer vaccine are effective against the Delta variant. However, experts need more data to research on any further mutations of the variant to assess whether they are still fully effective.