Everything you need to know about the Delta variant
The Delta variant of Covid-19 is a growing concern among the population right now.
On Tuesday, An Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that we are "in a race between the variant and vaccines" and that in order to proceed with reopening, we have to ensure that "the vaccine wins".
However, there is a lot of confusion surrounding the Delta variant.
What is the Delta variant?
The Delta variant is a variant of Covid-19 that was first identified in India in December 2020. It has since spread to 60 countries and has caused numerous outbreaks.
Is the Delta variant in Ireland?
Yes. Last week, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said that there was a "concerning increase in transmission of the Delta variant in Ireland". Recent data from the HSE suggests that 20% of all cases here are due to this variant. Additionally, research from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre says that almost half of the Delta cases in Ireland have occurred in the 19-34 age group.
How is it different to other variants?
The Delta variant is estimated to be between 40-60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant, which itself was 50% more transmissable than the original strain of the Covid-19 virus.
Today’s data show a concerning increase in transmission of the Delta variant in Ireland.
We estimate that Delta accounts for up to 20% of cases reported in the last week.
We have also seen a number of outbreaks associated with this variant reported in the last week.
— Dr Tony Holohan (@CMOIreland) June 21, 2021
Do the symptoms differ from other strains?
Professor Tim Spector of the ZOE app, which tracks symptoms of Covid-19 in the UK over time, has noted how symptoms of the virus have changed since the arrival of the Delta variant. He says that the number one symptom is headache, which is followed by a sore throat, a runny nose and a fever. The loss of taste and smell and the presence of a cough appear to be less common with the Delta virus than the original strain.
Is the Delta variant more dangerous?
It is currently unclear whether the variant is more dangerous than other variants. Data from the UK does indicate that it is leading to higher levels of hospitalisations in the UK, although these figures are at a lower level due to the vaccine rollout.
How do we protect ourselves from the variant?
Data from Public Health England indicates that full immunisation provides similar protection against hospitalisation with the Delta variant as it does against other variants. Evidence from the organisation suggests that after one dose, the Pfizer vaccine is 94% effective against hospitlisation from the Delta variant. After two doses, this figure rises to 96%. The AstraZeneca vaccine, meanwhile, is 71% effective against hospitalisation from the variant after one dose, and 92% effective after two.
As always, the HSE's advice regarding hygiene, mask-wearing and social distancing still stands.