Confirmed cases of coronavirus have been surging once more across the country in recent weeks, prompting the Government to slam the brakes on further lockdown easing.
Much of this has been blamed on the highly infectious Delta strain, also known as the Indian variant, with NHS bosses also concerned about the spread within households and the numbers testing positive without showing symptoms.
“In terms of the proportion of cases coming back as the Indian variant, or the Delta variant, across the North East, over 80% have been sequenced as the Delta variant,” said Liz Morgan director of public health at Northumberland County Council.
“It is very much the dominant strain circulating at the moment and in Northumberland it is probably over 90%.
“Locally, what we’re seeing is that about three in every 100 PCR tests is coming back positive when – it was [previously] much lower than that – and we’re seeing that half of the cases we’re coming across are asymptomatic.”
Morgan was speaking at a meeting of the county council’s Health and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee on June 15.
Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures have suggested community infection roughly doubled, from one in 1,120 in May to one in 560 in June.
Some reports have also suggested the Delta variant may cause more severe symptoms, although these claims are still being probed by experts.
Increased infection rates as a result of the strain do not appear to be in doubt, however, with estimates putting it as up to 60% more transmissible, meaning anyone who catches it is also likely to pass it on to the rest of their household.
But the fact most cases are appearing among those aged under 29 did appear to be a relative positive.
Morgan added: “This surge in transmission is very much being driven by younger people.
“We’ve got very high rates in 17- and 18-year-olds, we have very high rates in 19-24-year-olds, and people [aged up to] 29 are making up about 60 per cent of our cases.
“But I think the good news is that [among] people over the age of 60 there is a slight increase in cases, but nothing like the increase we’re seeing in young people and that’s really good news because those are the people who are most likely to end up in hospital with severe disease.”