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Highly Contagious Delta COVID-19 Variant ‘Poised to Take Hold’ of Europe, WHO Official Says

The Delta COVID-19 variant, otherwise known as B.1.617.2, was first detected in India and has recently been responsible for the surge in novel coronavirus cases across parts of the United Kingdom. To date, over 90% of COVID-19 cases stem from the Delta variant.

As much of the UK is undergoing a spike in infections, health officials have warned that the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, the deadly virus that causes COVID-19, is more than likely to “take hold” of the nation.

Hans Henri P. Kluge, the regional director of the World Health Organization’s Europe division, remarked during a Thursday conference that the health body was growing concerned with the Delta variant’s ability to spread quickly.

“The new Delta variant of concern, which shows increased transmissibility and some immune escape, is poised to take hold in the region, while many among vulnerable populations above the age of 60 remain unprotected,” Kluge told reporters during the event, highlighting that research has proven B.1.617.2 is able to infect individuals who are not fully vaccinated.

In fact, a study released by the UK’s Public Health England determined that the Pfizer-BioNTech and the AstraZeneca vaccines were only 33% effective against symptomatic Delta cases after one dose.

However, researchers also found that individuals who had received both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines were 88% and 60% effective, respectively.

© AP Photo / Frank AugsteinA nurse prepares to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Guy's Hospital in London, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020

Although Kluge steered clear of warning the public against traveling, he did take the opportunity to urge individuals to act “responsibly, apply common sense and do not jeopardize hard earned gains.”

“Over the course of last summer, [COVID-19] cases gradually rose in younger age groups and then moved into older age groups, contributing to a devastating resurgence, lockdowns and loss of life in the autumn and winter of 2020,” he said. “Let’s not make that mistake again.”

Kluge later acknowledged that the British public must continue to adhere to preventative COVID-19 measures, as well as subjecting oneself to being vaccinated as such options are “the way out of the pandemic.”

“Although we have come far, we have not come far enough,” he added. “Vaccination coverage is far from sufficient to protect the region from resurgence.”

© AP Photo / Ben BirchallBanksy's Girl with a Pierced Eardrum mural has been given a face mask in a nod to the coronavirus pandemic as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, in Bristol, England, Wednesday April 22, 2020

Latest figures indicate that nearly 41 million people in the UK have received at least one vaccine dose, with more than 28 million being fully vaccinated. Authorities are hoping to vaccinate an additional 21 million people by the end of July, according to the BBC.

Kluge’s remarks came as UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted on Thursday that the Delta variant presently makes up 91% of new COVID-19 cases, just one day after government figures revealed that the UK had recorded its highest daily case spike since late February.

UK’s Alpha COVID-19 Variant Accounts for Majority of US Cases

Although the Alpha COVID-19 variant initially emerged in the UK as one of the more “efficiently transmitted” strains, it has since moved on to the US and other nations around the world.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed in a study published on Thursday that the Alpha variant, also known as the B.1.1.7, made up roughly 66% of the US’ COVID-19 infections in April. When the variant first emerged in the US in late December, it had only made up about 0.2% of the nation’s cases.

© AP Photo / Marta LavandierIn this March 9, 2021, file photo, Army health specialists fill syringes with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in Miami.

A recent study has suggested that the Alpha variant is able to spread so quickly because it disables the body’s immune defenses by attacking interferons, a group of proteins that are released in the body in the presence of a virus.

The CDC also projected that the variant made up about 72.4% of cases between April 25 and May 8 in states such as Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

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