Covid Cases in UK: Delta variant caused 50pc rise since May
The rapid spread of the Delta coronavirus variant has driven a 50 percent rise in infections in England since May, a large prevalence study led by Imperial College London found yesterday after Prime Minister Boris Johnson delayed the end of restrictions.
The government said the data supported Johnson's decision to push back the end of Covid restrictions in England to July 19, citing the threat of the Delta variant first identified in India, and the need to vaccinate more people.
The latest round of the REACT-1 prevalence survey, conducted between May 20 and June 7, found prevalence was 0.15%, compared to 0.10% in the last set of data from late April to early May.
"Prevalence is increasing exponentially, driven by younger ages... and it appears to be doubling every 11 days. Clearly, that is bad news," Steven Riley, professor of infectious disease dynamics, Imperial College London, told reporters.
The study is one of the largest prevalence surveys in Britain, with 109,000 volunteers tested in its latest round.
Riley added that Britain's high vaccination levels made it hard to predict how long that exponential growth would last, saying the rapid rollout of vaccine doses to younger age groups should slow it down.
According to Reuters, over half the adult population of Britain has received two vaccine doses, and more than three-quarters of adults have received at least one vaccine dose.
Although the Delta variant is shown to substantially reduce the effectiveness of one dose of vaccine against mild infection, two doses still provide good protection against severe disease, early evidence has shown.
The pandemic has killed at least 3,835,238 people worldwide since the virus first emerged in December 2019, according to an AFP compilation of official data yesterday.
PROBE SHOULD SHIFT TO US
Meanwhile, a senior Chinese expert said the United States should be the priority in the next phase of investigations into the origin of Covid-19 after a study showed the disease could have been circulating there as early as December 2019, state media said yesterday.
The study, published this week by the US National Institutes for Health (NIH), showed that at least seven people in five different US states were infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, weeks before the first official cases were reported.
Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told state-owned tabloid the Global Times that attention should now shift to the United States, which was slow to test people in the early stages of the outbreak, and is also the home of many biological laboratories.
"All bio-weapons related subjects that the country has should be subject to scrutiny," he was quoted as saying.
Commenting on the study on Wednesday, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said it was now "obvious" that the Covid-19 outbreak had "multiple origins" and that other countries should cooperate with the World Health Organization (WHO).
Meanwhile, Japan's government yesterday approved lifting Tokyo's virus emergency just over a month before the Olympics, but set new restrictions that could sharply limit fans at Games events.
The state of emergency in place in Tokyo began in late April and largely limits bar and restaurant opening hours and bans them from selling alcohol.
In Australia, the government will recommend only people over 60 receive AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine, the country's Minister for Health Greg Hunt said yesterday, following a spate of blood clots in those who have received the inoculation.
The World Health Organization said yesterday that infections in Africa are surging as a third wave of the pandemic gathers pace on the continent, fuelled by the spread of more contagious variants.
"Africa is in the midst of a full-blown third wave. The sobering trajectory of surging cases should rouse everyone into urgent action," WHO's regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, told an online news conference.
In France, people savoured a fresh sense of freedom yesterday as people were allowed to remove face masks when outside for the first time since last autumn and Disneyland Paris welcomed visitors after an eight-month Covid hiatus.
The easing of coronavirus rules came as authorities hailed a rapid decline in new cases on the eve of summer holidays, raising hopes for a more vibrant and relaxed tourist season.