Delta COVID Variant More Transmissible, UK Official Says

The delta variant of the coronavirus, first identified in India, may be up to 40% more transmissible than the alpha variant, Britain’s health minister said Sunday.

Matt Hancock told reporters Sunday that the delta variant has become the dominant strain in the country, replacing the so-called alpha variant first identified in Kent. It is possible the delta variant could threaten plans to lift lockdown restrictions by June 21, he said.

Hancock stressed the importance of Britons getting their vaccinations. The early data show the vaccine is effective against the delta variant after people have received both doses, he said.

Currently, 40% of the United Kingdom’s population has been fully vaccinated, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. New cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, have dropped dramatically since the United Kingdom began its vaccination campaign.

On Sunday, a bipartisan trio of U.S. senators, Democrats Christopher Coons of Delaware and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois along with Republican Dan Sullivan of Alaska, stopped in Taiwan, which is dealing with a spike in coronavirus cases.

The democratically ruled island has fared well during the pandemic using testing, tracing and pandemic protocols such as mask wearing and social distancing to limit cases to nearly 11,000 and deaths to 224.

But it has vaccinated only about 3% of its population and says China is blocking efforts to obtain COVID-19 vaccines.

“I’m here to tell you that the United States will not let you stand alone,” Duckworth said. “We will be by your side to make sure the people of Taiwan have what they need to get to the other side of the pandemic and beyond.”

The U.S. will donate 750,000 shots to Taiwan, as part of the White House’s announcement that it is donating millions of vaccine doses to the global community. Duckworth did not say which vaccine Taiwan would receive or when.

The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported early Sunday that the global count of COVID-19 cases has reached 173 million, while the death toll is approaching 4 million.

India, with the second highest number of cases globally, reported early Sunday that it had recorded 114,460 new infections in the previous 24-hour period, the lowest count in 60 days. The daily death toll of 2,677 was the lowest tally in 42 days. Public health officials have warned that India’s infection and deaths totals are likely undercounted.

Source: Voice of America