A new mutation of the Delta variant of the coronavirus, which is reported to be more contagious, is being monitored by health authorities in the United Kingdom, where it is spreading.
The new subtype, labelled “AY4.2,” which accounted for 6% of all Covid-19 cases in the UK last week, appears more contagious, but not more dangerous than previous subtypes, according to the UK Health Security Agency
The agency has placed the subtype on its “Variants Under Investigation” list, which means it is, thus far, not viewed as a “Variant of Concern.”
According to the Health Security Agency, preliminary data shows that AY4.2 is more transmissible than previous sub-variants, but further evidence is needed to determine whether this is due to a change in the behaviour of the virus or to epidemiological conditions.
It stressed that AY4-2 did not seem to cause a more severe version of the illness or to make the vaccines currently being distributed less effective.
The new sub-strain has come at a time when the Uk is experiencing one of the highest transmission rates in the world: on Thursday, it registered over 50,000 new daily infections for the first time in three months, while on Friday, it recorded 49,298 cases and 180 deaths, bringing the cumulative death toll since the start of the pandemic to 139,326.
Despite increasingly urgent appeals from the medical world, the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson has refused to reintroduce certain restrictions, such as an indoor facemask mandate, after lifting the last ones in July.
He said on Friday that it made sense to wear face masks indoors while recalling that his government’s priority was to convince the over-50s to take the third dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
Aside from attributing the current surge in cases to the absence of restrictions, experts say it is also the result of decreasing immunity among the people vaccinated earliest in the UK and low vaccination rates among adolescents.