A new variant of the Delta strain of coronavirus which has been detected in several countries in recent weeks has now arrived in Australia.
The ‘Delta Plus’ variant — known as ‘AY.4.2’ — was detected in NSW hotel quarantine and is the only case in Australia so far.
The World Health Organisation has said its keeping a close eye on a new form of the Covid-19 Delta variant, which is the fastest-growing coronavirus strain in the UK.
It's unclear whether the variant is more contagious than the original Delta variant.
The emergence of the new variant comes as NSW prepares to open its borders to international passengers. Despite concerns about the variant, experts say there's no reason to stop easing restrictions, saying there will be more mutations.
“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.
The impact of the new Delta variant
Australia’s Chief Health Officer Professor Paul Kelly said health authorities are monitoring the situation.
“Just to be clear... 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,” Mr Kelly previously told reporters.
“In the UK there is a lot of circulating virus there, mainly in teenagers, they have re-commenced school at the moment.
Oxford Vaccine Group chief Andrew Pollard told the BBC the 'Delta plus' variant is "unlikely to change the picture dramatically" in largely vaccinated populations.
Less likely to contract variant if vaccinated
A study by the Imperial College London study suggests the Delta variant can transmit easily from vaccinated people to their household contacts, however, contacts are less likely to contract Covid if they are vaccinated.
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."
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