London: UK Health Minister Matt Hancock on Sunday said that the 'Delta' variant of Covid-19, first reported in India, is 40 per cent more transmissible than the 'Alpha' strain, detected in the UK itself.
"We were previously told by the scientific advisory group for emergencies (Sage) that there would be problems if a variant was 40 per cent to 50 per cent more transmissible," Hancock was quoted as saying by the BBC.
"The latest scientific advice is that the Delta variant, first detected in India, is 40 per cent more transmissible than the Kent strain," he said.
While hospitalisations currently remain broadly flat, majorly because of the vaccination programme, the rapid spread of Delta would likely "lead to a substantial resurgence of hospitalisations" and put pressure on the NHS, Hancock said.
Hancock also said he "wouldn't rule out" the continued wearing of face masks and working from home measures and noted that the UK government is "open" to delaying June 21 unlocking if needed, the report said.
According to Public Health England (PHE), the Delta variant, the variant of coronavirus first identified in India, is now the dominant strain in the UK.
The number of cases of the Delta variant has arisen by more than 5,000 since last week to 12,431, according to the data from PHE released on Thursday.
An analysis of 38,805 sequenced cases in England revealed that the Delta variant was associated with a 2.61 times higher risk of hospitalisation within 14 days of specimen date than the Alpha variant, the Guardian reported.
Data from Scotland supported the findings, also pointing to a more than twofold higher risk of hospitalisation for those infected with the Delta variant compared with the Alpha variant, it added.
"Although only a small number of cases end up in hospital, the proportion is about twice as high for Delta cases than Alpha cases in both England and Scotland," Professor Adam Finn of the University of Bristol, was quoted as saying to the Guardian.
"The number of cases is still small, but if this trend continues and case numbers continue to rise quickly, that would point to a larger number of people being seriously affected as this variant continues to replace the alpha variant over coming weeks," Finn added.