Approx. 70 Norwegians have been infected with coronavirus after two concerts in a culture house in Færder Municipality last week, and many of them have been diagnosed with the Delta variant – the variant that was first found in India.
“All the positive samples are checked regularly for the Delta virus. We have not received answers to all the tests yet, but based on the answers we have received so far, we assume that everyone in this outbreak has the Delta variant,” says municipal chief physician Elin Jacobsen.
Seven of those infected in the outbreak had been vaccinated, including 80-year-old Britt Ingeborg Wilhelmsen.
Jyllands Post report (in Danish)
Dr Susan Hopkins, Public Health England’s strategic COVID-19 response director, told the Science and Technology Committee of the UK Parliament today that if the Delta variant B16712 was “unmitigated”, left to spread without any lockdown restrictions, the R number could become “greater than five and maybe up to seven”.
An outbreak of the Delta coronavirus variant at the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary has seen 16 patients and six health-care workers tested positive for the variant. Six of the patients and five of the health-care workers had received two doses of the vaccine, while seven patients and one health-care worker had a single dose. The total vaccine breakthrough rate is 81.82%. All of those infected were vaccinated with an mRNA vaccine.
Some 10-12 percent of the COVID-19 patients in the latest COVID-19 outbreak in Guangzhou are critically ill, Guan Xiangdong, a specialist in the Guangdong COVID-19 medical team, told media on Thursday. The proportion is higher than in the epidemic in Wuhan, and the following 20 regional clusters that took place across China, in which the proportion was usually 2-3 percent, 5-8 percent or “8-10 percent in a few areas,” Guan said to China Central Television (CCTV) on Thursday.
The relatively high proportion of severe and critically ill cases was probably caused by the highly pathogenic viral strains that spread in this wave of the epidemic in Guangzhou, Guan said.
“On the 17 May 2021, the UK government removed the requirement for face coverings in secondary schools in England. Writing in The BMJ on 14 May 2021, we argued that this was ill advised given the clear evidence for the role of children and schools in transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and the rise of the new variant, subsequently designated as delta, which was already implicated in school outbreaks at the time.
There has been a lack of transparency from Public Health England (PHE) around the spread of the delta variant in schools. On 22 May, an article in The Observer reported that these data had been withheld by PHE at the request of 10 Downing Street. On 31 May 2021, The Citizens, a group promoting accountability in public life, and the data rights firm AWO sent a pre-action letter warning that they would seek judicial review unless PHE published the data on the grounds they it had acted “unlawfully” by withholding data on the spread of the variant in schools, and had “surrendered its independent judgement.”
Concerningly, even now, PHE has failed to release the full data. In a detailed technical report released on the 3 June, it only provided data on the number of “incidents” or outbreaks involving two or more students in schools. It did not provide numbers of delta variant cases linked to schools, which had been specifically and repeatedly requested by unions and scientists, and specified in the pre-action letter. Despite including several complex analyses, the 66-page report presented no breakdown of cases by age group. However, even the limited data provided on school outbreaks raises concerns. According to the report, 140 outbreaks of the delta variant had been identified in educational settings up to 30 May, the largest number in any of the settings specified. The data on “common exposures” (defined as two or more infected children with sequenced virus) for the week ending 11 May, just prior to dropping recommendations for masks in schools, showed that there were over 1000 common exposures for children infected with the delta variant in educational settings. Additionally, data from PHE and Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that the highest overall infection rates were among secondary school age children.
PHE has continued to put out contradictory claims. Just a day after reporting that infection rates were currently highest in 10-19 year olds, it claimed that cases among school-age children were low. This contradicted other ONS data released the same day that showed rapid rises in prevalence in this age group, with this now being much higher than all other groups. A day later the health secretary Matt Hancock stated that a “huge proportion of latest cases are in children.” This is reminiscent of messaging by the government from autumn and winter 2020 where the mantra “schools are safe” was used repeatedly to rationalise the lack of mitigations in schools, right up to the point they were closed on 5 January (following a day when many schools reopened briefly). At that point the Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister described them as “vectors for transmission, causing the virus to spread between households.”
Back to the present, the government has finally acknowledged the high rates of infection and transmission in children. As with its many previous errors, there is no acknowledgement that it has not followed advice from its own advisors. The government has left children, staff, and communities exposed to rapid spread of a new and more transmissible variant, and at risk of long covid. Yet, even as we see absenteeism related to covid-19 rising in schools, with 31% children absent from secondary schools in Bolton, the government’s messaging remains focussed on rapid tests. This is despite dropping uptake over time, and clear evidence that tests alone have not been able to contain spread in schools. Even after acknowledging the risks of infection and transmission in children, there is still no emphasis on urgent mitigations, including masks and ventilation, that are vital if schools are to remain open. While we welcome the health secretary’s announcement that children may be eligible to be vaccinated in August this does not help right now. According to SAGE modelling, the current wave is expected to peak in late July. By that time thousands of children and their family members will have been affected.
Data from Bolton, and several other places, where the delta variant gained dominance suggested early on that infection spread first among school age children, and then to other age groups. It is likely that lack of mitigations in schools played an important role in this highly transmissible, more virulent, escape variant gaining dominance rapidly across England. Spread of the delta variant is likely to have played an important role in the exponential rises we are seeing of cases in England, and hospitalisations in North West England.
During the current crisis the focus on the Stage 4 re-opening on the 21 June by government and media detracts from actions that need to be taken immediately to pre-empt the potentially devastating impact of a third wave. Our concern here has been with the actions that must be taken in schools to keep our children safe.
First, we must reintroduce masks both at primary and secondary levels and both in classrooms and communal areas. Unions have jointly called for an immediate re-introduction of masks in secondary schools and several local authorities have already reinstated these. This needs to be incorporated into Department for Education guidance as a recommendation for all schools.
Second, there needs to be central investment in ventilation and air cleaning in schools, including CO2 monitors, and air filtration devices, to supplement ventilation where needed. Risk can also be reduced by moving to learning outdoors, where possible, including physical education activities.
Third, there must be practical, financial, and remote learning support for families with children who are isolating. And lastly, the Government must provide adequate catch-up resources for children who have lost out on education over the past year, to bridge gaps and worsening inequities in education.
In sum, schools are the place where infections are rising fastest. Yet schools are a place where the basic mitigations of face coverings, space, and fresh air are not simply missing, but—in the case of masks—have actually just been removed. This makes no sense. The government must act urgently to protect and support its children at this critical juncture.”
Deepti Gurdasani, senior lecturer in machine learning, Queen Mary University of London.
Hisham Ziauddeen, consultant psychiatrist, Cambridge and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, UK.
Stephen Reicher, professor, School of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of St. Andrews. Member of Independent SAGE and the advisory group to the Scottish chief medical officer.
Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Member of Independent SAGE.
— Corona Heads Up (@CoronaHeadsUp) March 15, 2020
Of the 36 cases of Delta-AY.1 (mountaineers) variant, 27 cases were known to have a vaccination status within the National Immunisation Management System (NIMS).
“Through routine scanning of variation in Delta a small number of sequences were detected which had acquired the spike protein mutation K417N. Information suggests that there are at least 2 separate clades of Delta with K417N. One clade is large and internationally distributed with PANGO lineage designation AY.1. A second clade found in sequences uploaded to GISAID from the USA. There is limited epidemiological information available at present.
As of 7 June 2021, 63 genomes of Delta with K417N have been identified on GISAID. from Canada (1) Germany (1), Russia (1), Nepal (2), Switzerland (4), India (6), Poland (9), Portugal (12), Japan (13), USA (14).
There are currently 36 cases of Delta-AY.1 in England (35 confirmed sequencing and 1 probable genotyping) plus an additional 10 sequences which include some cases in other UK nations and some genomes for which case data is being sought. The first 5 cases were sequenced on 26 April 2021 and were contacts of travellers to Nepal and Turkey. All these cases were detected in the West Midlands. Cases have been detected in 6 different regions in England (Table 21, Figure 26). The majority of cases are in younger individuals, with 2 cases of age 60 or over (Figure 27). Out of the 36 cases, there were 11 travel associated cases (6 travellers and 5 cases amongst contacts of travellers). Twelve cases have no history of travel or contact with travellers. Countries of travel included red-list countries (Nepal and Turkey), amber-list countries (Malaysia) and green-list countries (Singapore).
Of the 36 cases, 27 cases were known to have a vaccination status within the National Immunisation Management System (NIMS), when linked on NHS number. Of these, 18 cases occurred in people who were not vaccinated, 2 cases in people who had received their first dose within 21 days of specimen date, 5 cases in people who had received their first dose more than 21 days after specimen date. There was a total of 2 cases where there were more than 14 days between the second dose of vaccine and a positive specimen. No deaths have been recorded amongst the 36 cases.”
PHE download – SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern and variants under investigation in England – Technical briefing 15 (PDF)
If the previous waves of Sars-CoV-2 in the UK are anything to go by, Britain is less than one week away from the B16172 Delta variant exploding into another full-blown national health crisis. The country’s current coronavirus case rate is roughly the same as it was on the 26th September 2020. Just five days later, on October 1st, the third wave of infections moved into a different gear entirely, swamping hospitals and causing thousands of deaths.
It’s time to plan for the worst and hope for the best.
Sticking with a football theme, it's definitely not bending like Beckham, but it's another day of slightly less steep rise at least. (10 day doubling is still pretty unpleasant of course) pic.twitter.com/y1CnOQFfkt
— Oliver Johnson (@BristOliver) June 13, 2021
Highest point estimate yet (and the case figure to drop in for tomorrow is already 5,984). You don't really want to look where the straight line ends up by early July. pic.twitter.com/DYJ0NChOTr
— Oliver Johnson (@BristOliver) June 9, 2021
10th June 2021:
“There is no new hybrid variant in Vietnam at this moment based on WHO definition,” Kidong Park, the WHO representative in Vietnam, told Nikkei Asia on Wednesday. “The variant detected is Delta variant (B.1.617.2), with additional mutations, and needs more observation. We need to monitor during next couple of weeks,”
“This is within the existing [Delta] variant. It is an additional mutation” Park explained, adding “as for now, there is no alarming alert from WHO. Park also stressed the Delta variant is dangerous as it is highly contagious and spreads very quickly.
The Delta variant with the K417N mutation, also known as the “Mountaineers” variant, has cropped up 14 times in Japan, and 13 of those samples were in travellers from Nepal – mostly climbers from Everest expeditions. At least 100 cases were reported at the Everest base camp, it is believed that the variant could have been spread by climbers ascending the mountain despite widespread national lockdowns across the globe. Cases have also been identified in India, Japan, Portugal, and the UK.
According to Dr Jeff Barrett, director of the COVID-19 Genomics Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in the UK, at least one case has been found in the US.
The mountaineers variant B.1.617.2 + K417N has also been blamed for the axing of Portugal from the UK’s green travel list. See this report
“We sequenced all samples of vaccination-breakthrough cases at NCDC, Delhi, over the period of the study. Two VOC lineages were seen amongst 27 cases: B.1.617.1 (n=2; 8%), B.1.617.2 (n=19; 76%). Other samples had the background B.1 lineages (16%).
It is noted that when compared to population prevalence, B.1.617.2 was over-represented and B.1.1.7 was not even detected in vaccination breakthroughs, suggesting higher breakthrough risk of B.1.617.2 compared to B.1.1.7.”
The Nepalese Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) has said that no new variant of coronavirus has been detected in the country so far. According to the Spokesperson at the MoHP, Dr. Krishna Prasad Paudel, no new variant has been detected in the country as reported by British newspapers. He said that the Ministry was not aware of any such variant called ‘Nepal variant’ as no such variant has been detected. According to him, the Ministry has also written to the concerned health agency of the United Kingdom about the news reports.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it is not aware of any new variant of SARS-CoV-2 being detected in Nepal. WHO statement comes after British tabloid Daily Mail reported a news story with the headline: “Nepal Variant Threat to Our Holidays”.
WHO said that no new variant, other than the previously confirmed ones, has been detected in Nepal.
“WHO is not aware of any new variant of SARS-CoV-2 being detected in Nepal. The three confirmed variants in circulation are Alpha (B.1.1.7), Delta (B.1.617.2), and Kappa (B.1.617.1). The predominant variant currently in circulation in Nepal is Delta (B.1.617.2),” the WHO tweeted.
The latest Melbourne outbreak is believed to have begun when a traveller infected with the Kappa variant (B16171) returned to Australia.
“We’ve got to run this thing to ground otherwise people will die,” Victoria’s acting state Premier James Merlino said, adding they were dealing with a virus variant “quicker and more contagious than we have ever seen before”.
Thousands of close contacts have been identified and the list of venues visited by the 60 confirmed cases has grown to about 350.
So, more of a “Western mountaineers” variant then?
Deputy Director of the Medical Examination and Treatment Administration, Vietnamese Ministry of Health, assessed that young people without underlying diseases develop lung damage very quickly, just a few days after symptoms appear white on both sides of the lungs.
“Especially in this epidemic, the clinical manifestations of patients are different from the previous epidemic with mutations. Specifically, even young people without underlying diseases, lung damage is also very rapid, often occurs from the 7th to the 10th day, as soon as symptoms appear, after a few days, white blur appears on both sides of the lungs, “said Khoa. “Therefore, the risk of death may be in age groups, not only in the elderly and those with underlying diseases. Therefore, the treatment work also requires posing the problem of coping, responding to possible situations”.
VNExpress.net report (in Vietnamese)