The highly infectious Covid variant — first identified in India last year — has been the dominant strain in the country for the last few weeks, triggering concerns of a fourth wave of the pandemic.
Overall, the Delta variant accounts for approximately 99 per cent of cases that are sequenced across the UK, followed by the local Alpha variant of concern.
Despite these numbers, the UK seems largely unfazed.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently said that his government is planning to remove the law mandating masks and social distancing in a drastic rollback of Covid-induced restrictions.
The massive crowds seen at Euro matches — many without masks — is another clear indicator that the country believes that the worst of the pandemic is behind it.
And this conviction is not without its reason.
Vaccinations up, deaths down
Public Health England (PHE) said its weekly analysis shows the continued rise in infections is not followed by a similar increase in hospitalisations and deaths, which reflects a high protection offered by both doses of a coronavirus vaccine.
Though the hospitalisations are rising marginally in July due to a massive surge in cases, the overall rate of admission is way lower than what was witnessed during the deadly third wave of the pandemic earlier this year.
In a separate study, the PHE had also found that all the vaccines being administered in UK (Pfizer, Moderna, Astrazeneca and the one-shot Janssen) are as effective at preventing symptomatic disease in the majority of people with underlying health conditions as the rest of the population.
The reduction in hospitalisation clearly shows that vaccines are offering enough protection to prevent severe cases even as the virus continues to spread in the community.
UK has among the highest vaccination coverage in the world with over half its population receiving both the doses of the vaccine and over 68% receiving at least one dose.
Shot of hope
With a sharp reduction in hospitalisation, Covid-related deaths have also reduced significantly in another marker that the vaccines are effective in preventing fatalities.
The clear link between the rate of vaccination and reduction in Covid deaths can be seen from the graph above.
UK began vaccinations in the second week of December last year. People started receiving the second dose from January 10 this year. Since then, over 3.4 crore people have been fully vaccinated.
The pace of coverage — those receiving both the doses — picked up significantly in March and appears to be inversely proportional to the decline in daily fatalities.
Since March, UK has reported just under 5,500 fatalities, which lends to the flattening of its death curve, as seen above.
A month-wise comparison shows how quickly deaths have come down in the country with the rise in vaccinations.
In June, UK reported just over 350 deaths, a nearly 99% reduction compared to the numbers in January.
In July, the daily deaths have increased marginally but continue to stay below 20.
In its vaccine study, PHE found overall vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic disease in risk groups at approximately 60 per cent after one dose of either Oxford AstraZeneca [Covishield] or Pfizer/BioNTech, with little variation by age.
After two doses, vaccine effectiveness is 81 per cent with Oxford/AstraZeneca in people in risk groups aged 16 to 64.
(With inputs from PTI)