Original article from Kent Live
A new report from Public Health England says that people infected with the Indian coronavirus variant could be more than twice as likely to end up in hospital.
Its latest technical briefing on COVID variants upgraded several risk assessments around the Indian strain, now referred to as "Delta" by scientists.
They said that after analysing 38,805 sequenced cases, they adjusted the results to take into account things like vaccination status, age, sex, and ethnicity.
It found the risk of being hospitalised was overall 2.61 times higher for the Indian variant compared to the Kent variant.
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The report, which updated its severity rating to "low confidence", having previously been "insufficient information", said: "There was a significantly increased risk of hospitalisation within 14 days… for Delta cases compared to Alpha (Kent) cases."
Public Health England's latest risk assessment, published alongside the report last night (June 3) also said there was now a "high level of uncertainty" around effectiveness after two doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
It had previously said that both the Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca had proven to be highly effective after two doses.
Public Health England has now upgraded its overall confidence that vaccines are less effective against the Indian variant as "high".
The report said: "There are now analyses from England and Scotland supporting a reduction in vaccine effectiveness for Delta compared to Alpha.
"This is more pronounced after one dose (absolute reduction in vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic infection of approximately 15-20% after one dose).
"Iterated analysis continues to show vaccine effectiveness against Delta is higher after two doses but that there is a reduction for Delta compared to Alpha.
"There is a high level of uncertainty around the magnitude of the change in vaccine effectiveness after two doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
"Although this is observational data subject to some biases, it holds true across several analytic approaches and the same effect is seen in both English and Scottish data.
"It is strongly supported by pseudovirus and live virus neutralisation data from multiple laboratories."
The concerning news comes alongside localised data showing Indian variant cases rising across Kent.
Medway and Dartford have become the latest hotspots in the county, with 34 and 24 new cases respectively compared to single digits the week before.
Kent County Council has ordered enhanced testing in Canterbury and Maidstone in response to the growing number of cases, while Sevenoaks, Swale and Dover also had significant increases.