The number of Delta variant cases of COVID-19 in the UK have risen by 35,204 since last week to a total of 111,157, representing a 46 per cent increase, health officials said in the weekly report released on Friday. Public Health England (PHE) said of the total Delta variant of concern (VOC) first identified in India 42 belong to the Delta AY.1 sub lineage, dubbed as Delta plus in some quarters over fears of its even greater transmissibility. While the Delta variant now accounts for approximately 95 per cent of cases that are sequenced across the UK, PHE said the both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine continue to provide good protection against hospitalisations.
Through the success of our vaccination programme, data suggest we have begun to break the link between cases and hospitalisations, said Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency. This is hugely encouraging news, but we cannot become complacent. Two doses of vaccine are far more effective against COVID-19 than a single dose, so please make sure that you come forward to get your second dose as soon as you are invited, she said.
Whilst vaccines provide excellent protection, they do not provide total protection, so it is still as important as ever that we continue to exercise caution, she added. Meanwhile, PHE said it added another variant, Lambda (C.37) to its list of variants under investigation (VUI) on Wednesday due to international expansion and several notable mutations, including L452Q and F490S. The World Health Organisation (WHO) classified Lambda as a Variant of Interest on June 14.
Six cases of Lambda have been identified across the country to date, all have been linked to overseas travel. The earliest documented sample was reported in Peru and Lambda has been sequenced in 26 countries to date. According to UK health officials, there is currently no evidence that this variant causes more severe disease or renders the vaccines currently deployed any less effective. But PHE said it is carrying out laboratory testing to better understand the impact of mutations on the behaviour of the virus.
The latest figures show that an additional 514 people were admitted to hospital in England with a diagnosis of COVID-19 in the week up to June 21 and of these 304 were unvaccinated, coinciding with the health service messaging in favour of vaccinations. There have now been a total of 117 deaths in England of people confirmed as having the Delta variant eight of which were people under the age of 50. Six of these eight people were unvaccinated, while two died after more than 21 days of receiving a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
It comes as the National Health Service (NHS) is set to intensify its vaccination drive this weekend with a grab a jab initiative. Hundreds of walk-in NHS COVID-19 vaccination sites will be operating over the weekend, where any adult aged 18 and over can walk in for a vaccine. With more than 63 million jabs already delivered by the NHS in England, we’re now in a race to the finish line, said Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive.
“It’s now easier than ever to get your life-saving jab, and the more of us who are vaccinated the safer and freer we all will be. So this weekend why not join millions of others and ‘Grab a Jab’ to take advantage of this life-saving protection, he said. A new online service enabling people to simply enter their postcode and find their nearest walk-in site is being set up and text messages will be sent to people living nearby who have not had their first dose. So-called jab buses will also be out on the road, and visits to housebound people are also planned, as the NHS gears up for a weekend of activity to drive uptake.
It’s becoming clearer all the time how effective our vaccines are in protecting against the Delta variant and with three in five people double vaccinated we’re well on our way to the whole country getting the fullest possible protection, said UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock, as he urged people to take up the offer. No matter where you live, where you come from, your background or your beliefs provided you are over 18, there is a vaccine available to you, added Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi.
The NHS said that besides first doses, second jabs are also available at the walk-ins, if it has been at least eight weeks since the first dose for people aged over 40, and 12 weeks for people aged under 40.