UK health officials on Friday issued a warning of an increased risk of catching the Delta variant even if someone has had COVID-19 before and urged caution as further investigations remain ongoing. Public Health England (PHE), which monitors all variants of concern (VOC) in the country on a weekly basis, found the Delta VOC cases have risen by 33,716 since last week to a total of 286,765 and continues to account for approximately 99 per cent of coronavirus cases across the UK.
It also revealed that 897 cases out of 68,688 infections of the Delta variant first identified in India recorded in an 11-week period from April to June were possible reinfections. The Delta risk assessment has been updated to reflect early signs of increased risk of reinfection with Delta compared to Alpha [variant previously dominant in the UK], the PHE said.
National surveillance analysis, adjusted for different variables including age and vaccination, shows a preliminary signal of increased risk of reinfection with Delta compared to Alpha. Further investigations are being undertaken, it noted. With reference to the latest hospitalisation data, 3,692 people have been hospitalised with the Delta variant, of whom 2,152 (58.3 per cent) were unvaccinated and 843 (22.8 per cent) were fully vaccinated.
This most recent hospitalisation data shows once again just how crucial vaccination is in protecting us from severe illness and death, said Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency. 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.
As we emerge from restrictions and vaccine coverage continues to rise, it is important to remember that while the protection provided by vaccination is excellent, it is not total. It is still as important as ever that we continue to exercise caution, she added. PHE also confirmed a further variant B.1.621 has been designated a variant under investigation (VUI) on Wednesday, having previously been designated a signal in monitoring. The new designation was made on the basis of early analysis of its genetic profile as well as its apparent international expansion and subsequent importation to the UK.
Sixteen confirmed cases of B.1.621 have been identified across the country to date, and the majority have been linked to overseas travel. There is currently no evidence of community transmission in the UK, PHE said. Meanwhile, the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) data showed that COVID-19 infections have continued to rise around much of the UK. Swab tests in the community suggest 1.3 per cent of the population or one in 80 people has the virus, up from one in 100 the week before, and the Delta variant accounts for almost every case.
Amid the rising numbers and resulting pingdemic with the National Health Service (NHS) alerting thousands to self-isolate following exposure to a COVID-positive individual, the government has exempt supermarket depot workers and food manufacturers in England from quarantine rules to prevent food supply problems. The new daily contact testing measures for those exempted are beginning on Friday at 15 supermarket depots, followed by 150 depots next week. Up to 10,000 staff are expected to qualify for the scheme, but supermarket workers are not included.
UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid said daily testing of food industry staff would "minimise the disruption caused by rising cases in the coming weeks, while ensuring workers are not put at risk". The latest daily infections data from the Department of Health showed 39,906 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the lowest daily total since May.