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Australia’s First Case of the New COVID-19 Variant Has Been Detected in Hotel Quarantine

Australia’s First Case of the New COVID-19 Variant Has Been Detected in Hotel Quarantine
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By Staff, Agencies

The first case of a new offshoot of the COVID-19 Delta variant has been detected in Australia for the first time.

The Delta Plus variant, formally known as ‘AY.4.2’, is the fastest-growing coronavirus strain in the United Kingdom.

The variant was uncovered in New South Wales hotel quarantine and is so far the only case of the variant detected in Australia.

But with international borders opening in just weeks, experts warn more cases of this variant may emerge.

The emergence of Delta Plus in NSW comes after Australia’s Chief Health Officer Professor Paul Kelly addressed the variant last week following increasing speculation.

“Just to be clear, this is not a new variant, it is not a variant of concern or even of interest at the moment but we continue to have that very close vigilance of the international situation, to watch out for what next variant may come from this virus,” Kelly told reporters.

“In the UK there is a lot of circulating virus there, mainly in teenagers, they have re-commenced school at the moment.

“A lot of cases in teenagers and their parents, that is where the majority of the 49,000 cases I think yesterday, but very importantly, there has not been the same sort of rises we have seen in previous waves into the UK in relation to hospitalizations or deaths and that is because vaccination rollout in the UK has also been very successful.”

We had been warned that the COVID virus would mutate.

It became the Delta variant – a highly transmissible strain, that has spread across the globe.

And now, the world is watching on to see just what impact the new Delta Plus variant will have.

The variant was first reported in a Public Health England bulletin on June 11.

Some experts say the delta plus [A.Y.4.2] variant appears to be 10 to 15 per cent more transmissible than the original Delta variant and could be a factor in the rising case numbers in the UK. However, an official analysis is yet to be completed.

The World Health Organization [WHO] said in a statement they are consistently monitoring new variants of COVID-19.

“WHO and its international networks of experts are monitoring changes to the virus so that if significant amino acid substitutions are identified, we can inform countries and the public about any changes that may be needed to respond to the variant, and prevent its spread,” the statement read.

“Current strategies and measures recommended by WHO continue to work against virus variants identified since the start of the pandemic.”

As NSW and Victoria continue with their reopening plans, experts say there’s no reason to slow or halt the easing of restrictions.

“As long as this virus has opportunities to keep infecting people, we’re going to see more variants popping up,” University of Sydney virologist Dr. Megan Steain told The Age.

“We can’t be panicking every time we see a few more mutations.”

Medical microbiologist Dr. Norelle Sherry also added that the variant is “not hugely worrying at this stage”.

“The apparent increased growth rate of this virus, compared to Delta, is still much less than the differences between the Alpha and Delta variants,” she explained to News Corp.

“That was a much bigger jump, compared to what we’re seeing between Delta and AY. 4.2.”

The Delta variant can transmit easily from vaccinated people to their household contacts, a British study suggests, although contacts are less likely to get infected if they are vaccinated themselves.

The Imperial College London study illustrates how the highly transmissible Delta variant can spread even in a vaccinated population.

The researchers underlined that did not weaken the argument for vaccination as the best way of reducing serious illness from COVID-19 and said booster shots were required.

They concluded infections in the vaccinated cleared more quickly but the peak viral load remained similar to the unvaccinated.

“By carrying out repeated and frequent sampling from contacts of COVID-19 cases, we found that vaccinated people can contract and pass on infection within households, including to vaccinated household members,” Anika Singanayagam, co-lead author of the study, said.

“Our findings provide important insights into... why the Delta variant is continuing to cause high COVID-19 case numbers around the world, even in countries with high vaccination rates.”

The study, which enrolled 621 participants, concluded that of 205 household contacts of people with Delta COVID-19 infection, 38 per cent of household contacts who were unvaccinated went on to test positive, compared to 25 per cent of vaccinated contacts.

Vaccinated contacts who tested positive for COVID-19 on average had received their shots longer ago than those who tested negative, which the authors said was evidence of waning immunity and supported the need for booster shots.

Imperial epidemiologist Neil Ferguson said that the transmissibility of Delta meant that it was unlikely the United Kingdom would reach “herd immunity” for long.

“That may happen in the next few weeks: if the epidemic’s current transmission peaks and then starts declining, we have by definition in some sense reached herd immunity but it is not going to be a permanent thing,” he told reporters.

“Immunity wanes over time, it is imperfect, so you still get transmission happening, and that is why the booster program is so important.”