London: UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Sunday cautioned that the Delta variant of Covid-19, or the B1.617.2 variant first identified in India, is around 40 per cent more transmissible than the Alpha or so-called Kent variant of concern (VOC).
But people who have received two doses of vaccine should be equally protected against either variant, he added. "That figure, around 40 per cent more transmissible, is indeed the latest advice I have," Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News.
While hospitalisations currently remain broadly flat, majorly because of the vaccination programme, the rapid spread of Delta would likely "lead to a substantial resurgence of hospitalisations" and put pressure on the NHS, Hancock said.
Hancock also spoke about the option of offering vaccinations to children aged 12-15, after the UK regulator approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for this age bracket on Friday, saying it would have "big upsides for education", but adding a decision had not been made yet.
Hancock also said he "wouldn't rule out" the continued wearing of face masks and working from home measures and noted that the UK government is "open" to delaying June 21 unlocking if needed, the report said.
According to Public Health England (PHE), the Delta variant, the variant of coronavirus first identified in India, is now the dominant strain in the UK.
The number of cases of the Delta variant has arisen by more than 5,000 since last week to 12,431, according to the data from PHE released on Thursday.
An analysis of 38,805 sequenced cases in England revealed that the Delta variant was associated with 2.61 times higher risk of hospitalisation within 14 days of specimen date than the Alpha variant, the Guardian reported.
Data from Scotland supported the findings, also pointing to a more than twofold higher risk of hospitalisation for those infected with the Delta variant compared with the Alpha variant, it added.
"Although only a small number of cases end up in a hospital, the proportion is about twice as high for Delta cases than Alpha cases in both England and Scotland," Professor Adam Finn of the University of Bristol, was quoted as saying to the Guardian.
"The number of cases is still small, but if this trend continues and case numbers continue to rise quickly, that would point to a larger number of people being seriously affected as this variant continues to replace the alpha variant over coming weeks," Finn added.