United Kingdom minister says Delta variant 40 percent more transmissible

Too Soon To Say: UK Health Minister On Reopening Of Lockdown In England On June 21

Concerns are mounting over whether the emergence of the Delta variant threatens the government's provisional June 21 deadline for lifting virus restrictions.

The Delta variant of the coronavirus is estimated to be 40 per cent more transmissible than the Alpha variant that caused the last wave of infections in the UK, Britain's health minister said Sunday.

"But crucially, after two doses of vaccine, we are confident that you get the same protection that you did with the old variant".

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News' Trevor Phillips on Sunday programme the link between cases and serious illness had been weakened by the vaccine rollout - and urged people who have had their first jabs to book their second.

Public Health England said last month that research showed double vaccination was similarly effective against both the Alpha and Delta variants.

The minister also confirmed that vaccines would be opened up to the next age cohort of under-30s in the next few days by the National Health Service (NHS). We've said that we'll give people enough time ahead of the June 21 date. Hancock said the 40 percent figure came from the government body of scientific advisors, SAGE. One of the four critical tests set by the government for a reopening is that the assessment of the risk from the deadly virus is not fundamentally changed by new VOC.

"So the good news is that the vaccine still works just as effectively".

A total of 12,431 cases of the Delta variant had been confirmed in the United Kingdom by June 2, up 79 per cent from the previous week's total of 6,959.

He also suggested social distancing, wearing of face masks and working from home could be extended beyond the final stage of the government's "road map".

"The way we are looking at this is step four [of the roadmap] involves the removing of the remaining social restrictions like the rule of six and some of the business closures which are still there".

Meanwhile, there were 203,613 first vaccine doses administered on Saturday, taking the total to 40,333,231, and 473,378 more second jabs were given, taking that total to 27,661,353.

Hancock stressed the importance of Britons getting their vaccinations.

He pointed to a renewed rise in COVID-19 cases but said he had been reassured by a broadly flat rate of hospitalisations and deaths as officials consider plans to end the lockdown.



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