Covid ‘Delta Plus’ – what is it, symptoms and how many UK cases are there?


Face masks could become mandatory again in the wake of rising Covid cases (Picture: Rex Shutterstock)

A new strain of the Covid-19 Delta variant is confirmed to be spreading in the UK, with an increase in case numbers of the strain seen across the country in recent weeks.

The variant was first reported to be in the country in the summer, but it is now being monitored by the Government following the rise in UK case numbers, amid fears that Delta Plus could be more transmissible than the Delta variant.

Just what is the variant, what are the symptoms – and has this one reached the UK?

Here’s what you need to know…

What is the Covid ‘Delta Plus’ variant?

The Delta Plus variant – known as AY 1 – is related to the Delta variant, which was first identified in India last year, and which is thought to have been behind the country’s devastating second wave.

IIndia’s health ministry originally claimed that Delta Plus is more transmissible and binds itself to the lung cells more easily.

This would make it even more infectious than the Delta variant, which itself is up to 60% more transmissible than the Alpha – or Kent – variant, which was dominant in the UK during the second wave of Covid.

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However experts have since said that it may only be around slightly more transmissible than Delta – which is not giving them cause for concern at this stage.

Professor Francois Balloux, director of the Genetics Institute at University College London, told the BBC: ‘It’s nothing compared with what we saw with Alpha and Delta, which were something like 50 to 60 percent more transmissible. So we are talking about something quite subtle here and that is currently under investigation.

‘It is likely to be up to 10 percent more transmissible.’

Delta Plus has since been declared a ‘Variant Under Investigation’ in the UK – meaning that it will undergo closer scrutiny by the UK Health Security Agency.

However it has not been classed as a ‘variant of concern’ by the World Health Organization – the term given to variants of the virus which can spread more rapidly or which may have the capacity to cause more serious illness or evade vaccines.

At this stage there is no evidence to suggest it causes more severe disease or that the vaccines would be ineffective against it.

What are the symptoms of the Delta Plus variant?

There is no evidence the new variant can escape vaccines (Picture: AP)

The symptoms of Delta Plus have been reported to be largely the same as those of the Delta Covid variant, but India’s News 18 channel reported in the summer that patients with Delta Plus have had such symptoms as stomach ache and vomiting, loss of appetite, nausea, joint pains and hearing impairment.

The symptoms of the Delta variant have also been reported to be different from those of previous Covid variants.

Those who have Delta have reported such symptoms as a headache, runny nose and sore throat as opposed to the more common Covid symptoms of a cough, fever and loss of smell or taste.

How many Delta Plus cases are in the UK?

There is no data yet to suggest Delta Plus is more contagious (Picture: Getty Images)

At the time of writing Delta Plus was believed to be responsible for around six per cent of cases in the UK.

said: ‘We’re identifying new variants all the time. This includes a new version of the Delta variant which is currently known as AY.4.2 and that new variant is now spreading.

‘While there’s no reason to believe at this point that AY4.2 poses a greater threat, the next variant or the one after that might do.

‘So we need to be ready for what lies around the corner.’

As well as India, the Delta Plus variant has so far been found in countries including China, the US, Switzerland, Japan, Portugal, Poland, Nepal and Russia.

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