Covid Scotland: Delta variant may have higher risk of serious illness, as strain becomes dominant

The Delta variant of Covid-19, previously known as the India variant, may lead to a higher risk of serious illness than the previously-dominant Alpha variant first discovered in Kent.

Public Health England stated it its latest monitoring report: “Early evidence suggests there may be an increased risk of hospitalisation for Delta (VOC-21APR-02) compared to Alpha (VOC-20DEC-02) although more data is needed for us to have more confidence in that finding.”

The Delta variant has now become dominant in Scotland, with more than half of cases attributed to this strain.

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Latest case numbers for this variant north of the border are believed to be around 1,500, but the true figure is likely to be higher.

Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty ImagesPicture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Around 65 to 75 per cent of the 992 new cases reported in Scotland on Friday are “almost certainly” this variant, national clinical director Jason Leitch said.

There is no evidence to suggest the variant has more of an effect on younger people, he added.

“We are seeing it dominate,” he said. “That's exactly what we expected to happen. We predicted it from this podium and we will have another one.”

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Prof Leitch added: “There isn’t any indication that this particular variant is worse in children. Proportionately, more young people are becoming infected because we started vaccination with those who might die.

“Very simply, you have more of a population available unprotected to this virus, and therefore proportionally more young people are getting this particular variant.”

Amid reports of a “Nepal variant” that may be more resistant to vaccines, Prof Leitch said Scots should not yet worry.

“We know some mutations give the virus particular advantages,” he said.

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"Some mutations give it a transmission advantage, some mutations give it a vaccine escape advantage.

“The Delta variant, the one we have just now, doesn’t have the vaccine escape mutation, but it does have the transmission mutation.”

Scientists do not yet have results, but early research suggests there may be a mutation of the Delta variant in Nepal which has the vaccine escape mutation, he said.

“This potential Nepalese variant may also have the vaccine escape mutation, that’s what got scientists worried,” he said. “It could be that it’s Delta with vaccine escape.

“You shouldn't worry about that because none of that is confirmed, but that's what is being called, the ‘Nepalese variant’.”

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