health
Thursday Oct 21 2021
By
Web Desk

Coronavirus: Here is what we know about the new Delta variant so far

By
Web Desk
A man wearing a protective face mask walks past an illustration of a virus outside a regional science centre amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Oldham, Britain. Photo: Reuters
A man wearing a protective face mask walks past an illustration of a virus outside a regional science centre amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Oldham, Britain. Photo: Reuters

A new mutation of the coronavirus, being dubbed as the “Delta Plus” has been discovered, causing much concern in countries around the world about its spread and fatality rates.

How worried should countries be, which are already battling to keep vaccination numbers high and infections low?

Here is what we know so far:

What is the new mutation?

Known as AY.4.2, the mutation is an offshoot of the Delta variant. It was identified through lab tests in July this year.

Since then, health authorities in England have been monitoring the mutation for more information.

In a press release issued on October 15, the United Kingdom’s Health Security Agency stated that 10% of all sequenced infections in the country are of this sub-variant. The Agency added that AY.4.2 is “expanding in England”.

The original Delta variant was first discovered in India and dubbed a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization in May. To this day, it remains the most dominant strain globally.

Is the AY.4.2 more contagious than Delta?

Scientists say it is too early to predict if the mutation poses a higher risk than its ancestor.

Professor Balloux and Jeffrey Barrett, who is the director of the Covid-19 Genomics Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in Cambridge, told the Financial Times that as per initial analysis the new Delta variant is 10% to 15% more transmissible.

However, Professor Balloux added that at this point this was not a cause of concern.

“Here we are dealing with a potential small increase in transmissibility that would not have a comparable impact on the pandemic,” he told the publication, “This is not a situation comparable to the emergence of alpha and delta that were far more transmissible (50% ) than any strain in circulation at the time.”

While, Prof Francois Balloux, director of University College London's Genetics Institute, told the BBC that scientists right now have a “wait and see” and “don’t panic” policy.

“It might be slightly, subtly more transmissible but it is not something absolutely disastrous like we saw previously,” he added.

It is also important to mention that the AY.4.2 has not been classified as a “variant under investigation” or a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organisation as yet.