The new Delta variant of coronavirus appears to be about 40% more transmissible than the variant it has largely replaced, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.
The transmissibility of the Delta variant, first identified in India, has been seen as a central factor to the decisions over whether to remove most remaining restrictions in England in a fortnight, with the decision due to be made later this week, reports the Guardian.
Estimates have said the Delta variant could be anywhere between 30% and 100% more transmissible than the so-called Alpha variant first identified in Kent. But asked for the latest information, Hancock gave a figure of 40%.
Saying that under-30s will be called to begin vaccinations from next week in the UK, the he confirmed it was still possible the reopening programme could be delayed or some rules kept in place.
"That means that it is more difficult to manage this virus with the new Delta variant," Hancock said.
"But crucially, after two doses of vaccine we are confident that you get the asame protection that you did with the old variant. So the good news is that the vaccine still works just as effectively."
It was, he said, still too early to decide what might happen on 21 June: "The prime minister and I and the team will be looking at all of the data over this week … The critical thing is to see whether the four tests we have set have been met."