Public Health England News and Media

03 Jun 2021

Delta (VOC-21APR-02) variant now dominant in the UK

  • Public Health experts urge caution in most affected areas

Public Health England’s weekly COVID-19 variant cases data shows that cases of the Delta (VOC-21APR-02) variant in the UK have risen by 5,472 since last week to 12,431.

Although there is some regional variation, PHE experts now believe that Delta (VOC-21APR-02) has overtaken Alpha (VOC-20DEC-01) as the dominant SARS-CoV-2 variant in the UK.

 Early evidence suggests there may be an increased risk of hospitalisation for Delta (VOC-21APR-02) compared to Alpha (VOC-20DEC-02) although more data is needed for us to have more confidence in that finding. 278 people with the Delta (VOC-21APR-02) variant attended A&E this week, resulting in 94 people being admitted to hospital overnight. Last week, 201 people attended A&E, with 43 admissions. Once again, the majority of these had not been vaccinated.

The most affected areas remain Bolton, where cases have risen by 795 to 2,149, and Blackburn with Darwen which has seen 368 new cases, bringing it to 724 in total. There are encouraging signs that the transmission rate in Bolton has begun to fall and that the actions taken by residents and local authority teams have been successful in reducing spread.

Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive, UK Health Security Agency, said:

“With this variant now dominant across the UK, it remains vital that we continue to exercise caution particularly while we learn more about transmission and health impacts. The way to tackle variants is to use the same measures to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 we have used before. Work from home where you can, and practise hands, face, space, fresh air at all times. If you are eligible and have not already done so, please come forward to be vaccinated and make sure you get your second jab. It will save lives.”

In Bolton, local teams have gone door-to-door in targeted areas on consecutive weekends to distribute test kits, share vital safety messages and encourage people to get the vaccine at a local drop-in centre. Take up of both testing and the vaccine have been positive.

Blackburn with Darwen has also seen local teams making door-to-door visits, and over 10,000 additional PCR tests have been given out. Mobile testing units have been deployed to the area and wastewater sampling continues, in order to track the spread of the variant.

PHE has also published a breakdown of outbreaks and clusters of variants in schools and other settings.

Outbreaks and clusters in primary and secondary schools are at low levels but we have seen a slight increase over recent weeks, in line with higher levels of the Delta or VOC-21APR-02 variant circulating in the community.

The latest PHE data suggest that there have been 97 confirmed COVID-19 outbreaks in primary and secondary schools that have had at least one variant case linked to them over the most recent 4-week period. This represents around 1 in 250 schools.

Public Health England’s Health Protection Teams continue to work with local authorities and schools to carry out surveillance of COVID-19 cases in schools to understand and reduce transmission in these settings.

PHE experts continue to urge everybody to remain cautious as the country approaches the next stage of the roadmap. Variant cases are on the increase in several areas and it is absolutely crucial that everyone plays their part in preventing their spread.

Contact Information

Luke Weeks
Public Health England
luke.weeks@phe.gov.uk

Notes to editors

  • Going forward, PHE will adopt the WHO’s Greek alphabet nomenclature system for referring to variants. For ease and clarity, we will also be using our own nomenclature side-by-side for the foreseeable future.
  • This week’s Variant Technical Briefing includes data on variants linked to outbreaks in all settings, including schools, as well as common exposure data for VOCs and VUIs.
  • Public Health England's Variant Technical Briefing 14 is available here.
  • A breakdown of Delta (VOC021APR-02) cases by local authority can be found here.
  • Public Health England comment on outbreaks in primary and secondary schools:

Dr William Welfare, Deputy Director of Health Protection at Public Health England said:

“Outbreaks and clusters in primary and secondary schools are at low levels but we have seen a slight increase over recent weeks, in line with higher levels of the Delta or VOC-21APR-02 variant circulating in the community.

“The latest PHE data suggest that there have been 97 confirmed COVID-19 outbreaks in primary and secondary schools that have had at least one variant case linked to them over the most recent 4-week period. This represents around 1 in 250 schools.

“Public Health England’s Health Protection Teams continue to work with local authorities and schools to carry out surveillance of COVID-19 cases in schools to understand and reduce transmission in these settings.”