A coronavirus test. / EFE

Spain's Ministry of Health confirms 35 cases of the new Delta Plus coronavirus variant in five regions

Many experts say the AY.4.2 variant is behind the strong rebound in incidence among the population in the UK

MELCHOR SÁIZ-PARDO

In its latest report on 'variants of interest', published this Monday (25 October), Spain’s Ministry of Health, has acknowledged that up to 35 cases of this the new Delta variant - AY.4.2 - have already been detected in five different autonomous regions of the country.

The variant is a subtype of the Delta strain that appeared for the first time in the UK last July, which is up to 15 per cent more contagious than the strain originating in India and which many experts say is behind the strong rebound in incidence among the British population.

The data shows that in week 41 (from 11 to 17 October) 35 cases of the AY.4.2 variant were registered, with 26 in Catalonia, Castilla-La Mancha (three), Castilla y León (two), Madrid (two) and the Valencian region (two).

Upward trend

"The percentage that it (Delta Plus) represents with respect to the total number of sequenced cases in Spain is for the moment low but there is an upward trend in recent weeks", acknowledges the report, which reveals that in week 39 (from 27 September to 3 October) the percentage was 1.5 per cent and that in week 40 (from 4 to 10 October) it climbed to 2.5 per cent.

The data, however, is already out of date, as Health officials acknowledged this Monday, since the reporting in the databases is delayed for more than a week.

The Ministry of Health report states that “according to the analysis carried out in England, the Delta Plus rate of growth compared to other variants could correspond to an increase of 10-15% in the transmissibility of the virus.”

Mass tourism

In fact, the CCAES experts in Spain are convinced that the Covid-19 outbreaks that have led Benidorm entering the 'extreme risk' zone last Friday (by exceeding 250 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days) are caused by the emergence of the AY .4.2 variant, hand-in-hand with mass tourism.

Since Delta Plus cases began to be detected in the UK in July, the epidemiological situation has worsened significantly. At the end of June the British Isles reported just over 20,000 new infections a day and a cumulative incidence rate of less than 300. But now the United Kingdom has more than 50,000 new infections a day and an incidence rate that is close to 900.

Relaxation of measures

Spain’s top coronavirus expert, Fernando Simón, insisted on Monday that we must "follow very carefully" the evolution of this new mutation, although he called for calm. In Spain we know that there are some cases but for now it is not a worry. We will see what happens in the coming weeks", said the director of CCAES. Simón explained that the existence of this mutation "has been known for a long time" and said that its emergence in places like the United Kingdom has been associated with a relaxation of measures, together with "great global mobility."

Simón clarified that "the key point" is not so much whether the variant "is a little more or less transmissible" than others, but whether with the measures that are being applied, alongside the vaccination campaign, "is enough to control it or not."