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Sub-variant Delta Plus under close watch in UK, makes up 6% of cases

LONDON: A sub-variant of Delta that is growing in England is being monitored but is not likely to change the Covid-19 picture, Oxford Vaccine Group chief Andrew Pollard said yesterday.

The sub-variant known as Delta Plus, designated as AY.4.2 in Britain, is growing and accounted for about 6 per cent of all sequences generated, the UK Health Security Agency said last week, but it has not been labelled as "under investigation" or a "variant of concern".

"Discovery of new variants is, of course, important to monitor, but it doesn't indicate that the new variant is going to be the next one to replace Delta," Dr Pollard told BBC radio.

"Indeed even if it does, Delta is incredibly good at transmitting in a vaccinated population and a new one may be a bit better, but it is unlikely to change the picture dramatically from where we are today."

PRESSURE

The comments come as the National Health Service (NHS) is close to being overwhelmed in many parts of Britain, with pressure only going to increase as winter approaches, the head of a healthcare system body said yesterday.

Britain reported 223 deaths from Covid-19 on Tuesday, the highest daily figure since March, and the country's new cases are the highest in Europe.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has lifted almost all virus restrictions in England and is keeping measures such as mandatory mask-wearing - common in much of Europe - in reserve only as a "Plan B".

But doctors have expressed concern that an increase in numbers going into hospital, combined with pressures on the NHS from seasonal viruses, could lead to a "perfect storm" that would leave hospitals unable to deal with long waiting lists and function normally. - REUTERS

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