Delta strain now accounts for more than half of all covid cases in the North East, says health chief

More than half of all covid cases in the North East are from the now dominant Delta strain, a public health boss has revealed.

Friday, 4th June 2021, 10:34 am
Updated Friday, 4th June 2021, 11:09 am
Surge testing has been used in areas where variants have become a concern.

The fast-spreading variant of concern now accounts for 56% of infections in the region, Newcastle public health director Eugene Milne confirmed.

Public Health England (PHE) announced on Thursday that the variant first identified in India had become the dominant form of coronavirus in the UK, overtaking the Alpha or Kent strain.

But while it now represents the majority of cases in the North East infection rates have not yet escalated here in the way they have in hotspots like Bolton and Blackburn – despite the variant’s greater infectivity.

According to latest PHE data, there were 149 confirmed or probable cases of the Delta variant in the North East as of May 31.

While that is 68 more than in the previous week, it remains far lower than the 4,273 identified in the North West.

Prof Milne told a health scrutiny committee in Newcastle: “What we have not seen is an escalation in cases as a consequence of that [the Delta variant becoming dominant].

“More generally what we are seeing with the Delta variant is rapid spread within households.

“As long as we continue to try and contain spread beyond that, we are not seeing a particular rise in the population at the moment.”

Surge testing and vaccination services have been running in North Tyneside over the last couple of weeks due to an outbreak of the Delta strain.

Asked by committee chair Coun Wendy Taylor if the relaxation of lockdown rules and people socialising indoors again had caused any rise in Covid cases, Prof Milne said that the impact had not been as great as he expected.

“If you had asked me a month or two ago what the impact of opening up stages in the roadmap would be on the overall numbers of cases, I was expecting to see more escalation than we have,” he told councillors.

“It could still happen. There is clearly an issue, which has manifested itself in other parts of the country, of the greater infectivity of the Delta variant.