THE Delta variant, formerly known as the Indian variant, has taken over as the dominant strain of coronavirus in areas of England and Scotland.

In Wales, 97 cases of the variant have been confirmed and First Minister Mark Drakeford has described the emergence of this variant as the latest "unpleasant surprise" that coronavirus has thrown at us over the past 15 months.


However, he said there is currently no definitive evidence that the variant is spreading amongst the community in Wales at this time.

Here's a summary of what we know so far about the Delta variant:

What is the situation in England and Scotland?

"Today there are more than 10,700 confirmed cases in England largely linked to eight areas of the country and mainly in the North West. And beyond that, there are a further 1,500 cases in Scotland," Mr Drakeford told a Welsh Government briefing last Friday.

"Indeed, the Delta variant has quickly become the dominant form of the virus in new cases recorded in both Scotland and England and if that pattern continues, it's important to say to everyone today that we will not be immune from that here in Wales."

What is happening in Wales?

"We have been carefully monitoring the new Delta variant as we see it spreading in many parts of England despite the restrictions in place," said Mr Drakeford.

"Already we have 97 identified cases in Wales and we know that there will be more than that.

"Of those we know about, everyone has been traced, advised to isolate, and their contacts have been contacted too.

"Now this includes a large cluster of cases in Conwy in North Wales and we keep that large cluster under very close investigation. Community testing is now available for anyone living in Llandudno Junction, Llandudno and Penrhyn Bay and I would ask anyone in those communities to come forward and use those community testing facilities.

"Of those 97 people, the considerable majority are people who have not been vaccinated, but there are some examples of people who have the new variants, who have had vaccination in the past.

"There's no evidence in Wales so far, of more than you would expect of that 97 people needing hospital treatment.

"Most of the clusters of the new variant are close-knit clusters where local public health teams are well are on top of their contacts, have traced them and know what people are doing.

"The Conwy cluster is the largest cluster. We have had examples there of people contracting the virus in schools and in workplaces.

"There are up to 300 people self-isolating as a result, but we don't have definitive evidence that it is now at a community spread level and the local public health team is working very hard indeed to make sure that all the individual cases in that cluster, or their contacts, are known about."

Why are the figures so high in England compared to Wales?

"I do think that the figures are a partial reflection of the different approaches that we have taken," said Mr Drakeford.

"The fact that in Wales we have taken a cautious, step-by-step approach to opening things up, that we haven't opened things up on a Big Bang basis where you have one day every five weeks where you do an awful lot of reopening

"The advice we've always had is that it's better to do it in stages, so that you can assess the impact of the changes that you've made.

"I think all of that has helped to keep the numbers low in Wales, as well as the huge efforts that individuals make in their own lives.

"It's not the whole of the explanation of why we got our figures and others have higher figures, but I do think it is part of that explanation."

How does the vaccine protect against it?

"The second dose of the vaccine does offer you a higher protection against the new variant, but the first dose is very important as well," said Mr Drakeford.

"It is particularly important amongst younger people. Some of the most difficult cases that they have seen across the border in English hotspots have been people in their 20s who are not vaccinated at all.

"The supply is a rate-limiting factor of course.

"Local health boards already have flexibility to speed up second doses in areas where they think that would be a sensible part of the response to local clusters of the delta variant.

"But the big picture will be when we are able to get first doses to everybody and then move on to complete second doses."