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1. DELTA IS TIGHTENING ITS GRIP: The variant is tightening its grip around the globe, kicking up a renewed surge in infections in Asia, Africa, EU, UK and the US. The variant has burned through with such rapacity that it’s hitting 200,000 cases daily in America. Up to 90% of ICU beds are now occupied in at least 5 southern states as of August 18, 2021. Dallas has reportedly run out of children’s ICU beds. On Wednesday (August 18, 2021) the US reported 1,300 new deaths, or about 54 fatalities per hour, from almost 90,000 hospitalisations. The CDC warned of a “rapid and alarming rise” in the COVID case and hospitalisation rates in America.
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2. DELTA IS HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS: First detected in India in October 2020, Delta has emerged to become twice as contagious as previous variants, the US Centres for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) reported. It’s more transmissible than the common cold and influenza, as well as the viruses that cause smallpox, MERS, SARS, and Ebola.
Image Credit: REUTERS
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3. DELTA NOW IN 135 COUNTRIES: The CDC called it “as contagious as chickenpox” in an internal document. Recent research found that the Delta variant grows more rapidly – and to much greater levels – in the respiratory tract. An August update from the WHO states the variant is now found in more than 135 countries.
Image Credit: AFP
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4. IT CAUSES MORE SEVERE ILLNESS: Experts point to data showing the Delta variant may cause more severe illness than previous strains, especially among unvaccinated people. CDC cited studies from Canada and Scotland, in which patients infected with the Delta variant were more likely to be hospitalised than patients infected with Alpha or the original virus strains. New data shows that some “breakthrough” cases — vaccinated people who get infected with Delta — are protected against severe disease, but can spread the virus to others. A patient suffering from COVID-19 receives treatment at a medical facility in Germany.
Image Credit: REUTERS
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5. DELTA LEADS TO SEVERE COVID, EVEN AMONG YOUNG PEOPLE: We now know that Delta is much more infectious and results in more severe cases, even among children and younger people. The surge in paediatric COVID infections worries doctors, even as seasonal flu is about to start. Doctors warn COVID's potential impact on children is beyond what flu would ever do.
Image Credit: biorxiv.org
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6. DELTA HAS COMPLETELY OUTCOMPETED LAMBDA: The Delta variant has completely overtaken Lambda. Delta, from the B.1.617 genetic lineage, is now the key driver of the pandemic. Infections peaked globally on January 7, 2021 (1.72 million cases in one day), as per the Johns Hopkins University tracker site. The variant has been dominant in India’s largest outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2021. With lockdowns, global cases dropped to 442,000 daily around March 30, 2021, before the numbers shot up to 826,034 by April 26, 2021. It dropped to 362,954, on June 21 before it nearly doubled in a fresh“wave” to 628,361 cases reported on August 8, 2021.
Image Credit: AFP
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7. CHINA HAS REPORTED A ‘DELTA OUTBREAK’: In mainland China, 48 cities reported an outbreak, which led to stringent movement restrictions. In the last six days, however, 36 of the 48 had not reported a case. Dozens of Chinese officials had been reportedly punished to control the Delta outbreak. Ma Xiaowei, China’s National Health Commission director, said the country must aim to curb COVID-19 before the school starts in September. In Hong Kong, a “fifth-wave” COVID alert has been raised after reports of an airport worker’s infection.
Image Credit: AFP
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Patna: A worker, wearing protective suit, assists an ill passenger traveling from Delhi at Jai Prakash Narayan International Airport, during ongoing COVID-19 lockdown, in Patna, Saturday, May 30, 2020. (PTI Photo)(PTI30-05-2020_000013B)
Image Credit: PTI
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9. DELTA AFFECTS UNVACCINATED PEOPLE MORE: Typically, vaccinated people are either asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms if they contract the Delta variant. In the US, 97% of patients hospitalised with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. The University of California-Davis Health physicians have reported a number of younger patients, after being admitted with critical illness, say that they wish they should have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine earlier. But it normally takes two weeks following the second shot before the human body kicks up enough antibodies against the pathogen. Photo shows people protesting against COVID vaccine and mask mandates in Ohio, US.
Image Credit: Reuters
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10. DELTA COULD CRIPPLE POOR COUNTRIES: In certain countries, especially those with lower vaccination rates or without a robust healthcare infrastructure, the Delta’s impact could be debilitating, warn experts. Given the spotty access to vaccines by most of the world’s less-developed countries, Delta could threaten remote regions and smaller island nations that dodged earlier COVID waves, said the WHO. Health experts warn the impact could be felt for decades to come. Photo shows police making arrests are they enforce face mask mandates in Fiji's capital Suva amid worsening infections.
Image Credit: AFP
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11. MASK WEARING AMID DELTA: In its latest bulletin, CDC still advises fully-vaccinated people to wear a mask indoors in public, to maximise protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others. This advisory also applies if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission. The agency also recommends that people whose immune systems are compromised — moderately or severely — should receive an additional dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine after the initial 2 doses. Masked mall-goers in Manila are checked at the entrance.
Image Credit: SM Supermalls
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12. NO VACCINE IS 100% EFFECTIVE: A small number of reinfections — or “breakthrough” cases — among vaccinated people had been reported. This is because no vaccine is 100% effective. With the COVID-19 vaccines reporting around 95% efficacy, about 5%-10% of those vaccinated could be infected. About 0.005% of the vaccinated population has reported breakthrough cases of COVID-19. As of August 9, 2021, CDC reported that 8,054 patients with COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough infections were hospitalised or died, out of 166 million people fully vaccinated against COVID till then.
Image Credit: AP
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13. VACCINE TRIALS ON CHILDREN: No vaccines for kids under 12 had been approved yet. At the FDA’s urging, both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are expanding their trials for children ages 5 to 11. On July 26, 2021, the drug regulator told the vaccine makers to include 3,000 children in the 5-to-11-year-old group trial. Initially, Pfizer aimed to conduct trial in 4,500 children, ages 6 months to 12 years old — two-thirds would get the vaccine, while a third will get a placebo. More than 358 million mRNA doses had been administered in the US as of August 17, 2021.
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14. MIX-AND-MATCH VACCINE STUDY AGAINST DELTA: Approved vaccines are highly effective at preventing COVID-19 infection. A study published August 17, 2021 in the medical journal The Lancet shows mixing and matching of vaccines — specifically AstraZeneca (ChAdOx1-S) first then mRNA (BNT162b2 from Pfizer/BioNTech) as booster — achieves a very strong immune response against all variants of concern, including Delta. It was the first such analysis to look at a “heterologous” vaccination specifically against Delta. Figures published in the Lancet shows higher levels of neutralising antibodies in 'heterelogous' AstraZeneca/Pfizer vaccines against wild type (Wuhan), Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta variants as compared to 'homologous' (same brand) vaccination.
Image Credit: The Lancet (Tables)