By Nitu Ahluwalia Arora from Dublin, UK
The Delta Variant of Coronavirus, which first became notorious in India, is spreading rapidly across Europe. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has cautioned that Europe is "on thin ice" in its fight against the coronavirus.
As per the data available in the UK, where the Delta variant has been held responsible for new Covid cases predominantly suggest that it is about 60% more infectious than the Alpha variant, which was previously identified in the UK, in 2020. This transmission advantage has made Delta deadlier than any other variant known to the world. After creating mayhem in India in April and May, the notorious variant is all set to sweep across Europe in the most celebrated season of summer. So far this variant has been identified in more than 90 countries and is considered the deadliest; due to its augmented ability to target the vulnerable, especially in places with low vaccination percentages.
Based on studies and evidence, health officials in Australia suspect that the Delta variant can transmit within five to ten seconds among people, especially if they are indoors like in a shopping mall. Covid cases of the Delta variant have been reported in Sydney. Officials have taken swift action and a strict lockdown has been imposed in Sydney and in other surrounding areas.
Sydney and some of its surrounding areas have imposed a strict two-week lockdown in an effort to curb the spread of the Delta variant. Photograph: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images
It is clear that Delta has a significant transmission advantage, but scientists have yet to devise the reason behind it. Prof Catherine Noakes, a member of the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) and an expert in airborne infections at the University of Leeds, suggested three possible reasons: that the people it infects have a higher viral load, meaning they would emit more particles; that people need to be exposed to less of the virus to become infected; or that a relatively short exposure time to an infected person is enough to spread the disease.
It is possible that a person could be infected by being close to a carrier for a few seconds if the carrier were to exhale a load of virus particles and the person just happened to breathe in at exactly the wrong moment, she said.
“What it doesn’t necessarily mean is that it’s transmitting that way all the time for everybody. It may well just be one of these really unlucky events.”
Ireland’s Prime Minister, Micheál Martin said: “We need to have a full assessment of the prevalence of the Delta variant right now across Europe. It's not just the UK anymore. There are very high numbers in Portugal, for example. "Full vaccination is the most important protective weapon we have against the Delta variant in our case, or indeed any other variants that may emerge." "We know now the sooner we get people vaccinated we significantly reduce the risk from the Delta variant." His comments came after the country's health services declared 210 fresh cases of the Delta variant in Ireland.
Andrea Ammon, the director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), said on Wednesday that the spread of the Delta variant showed the importance of speeding up vaccinations in Europe, as "preliminary data shows that it can also infect individuals that have received only one dose of the currently available vaccines".Two doses offered "high protection" against the Delta (B.1.617.2) variant, she added.
Let’s take a look at how countries are preparing to deal with the Delta variant:
France: In France, the number of Delta variant infections is rising day by day, especially as it has caused concerns in the southwest of the country. Lockdown restrictions have been eased in France, although a resurgence could result in a fresh wave of restrictions.
Prime Minister Jean Castex described the situation as “difficult but not catastrophic”. He stressed on speeding the vaccination programme.
Russia: In Russia, the Delta variant is responsible for 90% of new infections, according to the city’s mayor. The main reason behind the spread is the low vaccination uptake across the country.
Fresh restrictions have been imposed in Portugal. The Delta variant is now behind more than half of the new cases in the country. Cabinet Minister Mariana Vieira da Silva said on Thursday that the new rules were "an attempt to contain'' the Delta variant. It is noteworthy that the country's target of providing the first dose to 70% of the population will be in the dark owing to the shortage of vaccines.
There has been a significant increase in the number of cases due to people attending Euro 2020 matches. The German head of the World Medical Association has urged people not to travel to London for Euro 2020 matches over concerns about the Delta variant.
Ahead of Germany's match against England in London next Tuesday, Frank Ulrich Montgomery said that those traveling to the UK "run the risk of getting infected with the Delta variant".
“The problem is that we haven’t reached that protective level, and so if you do get infections and cases growing there’s plenty of susceptible people to pass that infection on to, '' said Dr. Stephen Griffin, a virologist and associate professor at the University of Leeds school of medicine.
“This is a sign … that we must go belt and braces in all of this. There’s no point leaving it half done – we can’t ignore children in vaccination campaigns,” he said. “If we do, then we could end up in a cycle of variants.”
To summarize, complete vaccination and masking is the only weapon mankind has to combat against the Delta variant of Covid-19.
“There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but the way out is through.
Natalie Grover. “Delta Covid Variant edging against vaccines”. The Guardian.www.theguardian.com, 27th June 2021.
“Covid HSE briefings”. RTE.www.rte.com, 24th June 2021
“Coronavirus-Ireland”. RTEwww.rte.com, 24th June 2021
“Europe brace for surge in Delta variants”,www.bbc.com. 24th June 2021