Splainer

Wednesday, June 23 2021


Dive In

Forgive me if this comes out wrong, but I went to do a yoga class in L.A. recently and the 22-year-old girl behind the counter was like, ‘Have you ever done yoga before?’ And literally I turned to my friend, and I was like, ‘You have this job because I’ve done yoga before.’

That’s the always entertaining/delusional Gwyneth Paltrow taking single-handed credit for bringing yoga to the world. And she did it at great cost to herself, FYI: “I remember when I started doing yoga and people were like, ‘What is yoga? She’s a witch. She’s a freak.’” Just so you remember who to thank the next time you do a downward dog.

Big Story

Who’s afraid of the Delta variant?

The TLDR: While the world is grappling with the spread of the Delta (aka Indian) variant, Indian health authorities labeled its latest iteration—Delta plus—to be a ‘variant of concern’. We look at the variant that has everyone worried about a prolonged and painful pandemic.

 

Remind me about the Delta variant...

The Delta variant was previously called the ‘double mutant’ or ‘Indian’ variant, and is dubbed a ‘variant of concern’—which means there is evidence it is more infectious and/or causes more severe disease and/or renders certain Covid treatments ineffective. This B.1.617.2 variant has key mutations on the virus’ spike protein (explained in detail here). And here’s why everyone is worried about it:

 

One: It is far more infectious than any other variant. It is at least 40% more transmissible than the Alpha (UK) variant—which itself is 50% more transmissible than the original version of the virus.

 

 Two: Another key mutation makes it easier for the virus to invade body cells and spread. More importantly, it can also make certain Covid treatments like monoclonal (artificial) antibody cocktails ineffective.

 

Three: It is somewhat resistant to vaccines—and a single dose offers very little protection against this variant. A UK study found that one dose of either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca (Covishield) vaccine offered only 33% protection against Delta compared to 50% against Alpha. Two doses, however, boosted AstraZeneca’s efficacy to 60% and Pfizer’s to 88%. The good news: Even those who have received just one dose of a vaccine are 75% less likely to be hospitalised. So vaccines at least protect against severe disease.

 

Four: And that’s important because a Scottish study showed that people infected by the Delta variant were roughly twice as likely to be hospitalized than were those infected with Alpha.

 

And Delta is the most common variant now?

It has been reported thus far in 80 countries and is the most common variant in India and the UK.

 

Europe: In the UK, 99% of sequenced and genotyped confirmed coronavirus cases across the country are the Delta variant. In just one week, the number of Delta variant cases jumped by 33,630. And that’s despite the fact that 59.5% of the adult population has been fully vaccinated—and 81.6% have received at least one dose. So it has all of Europe very worried—even though the numbers are still low on the continent. 

 

The United States: In the US, leading Covid expert Dr Fauci has called it “the greatest threat”—and it is spreading quickly. In early April, Delta represented just 0.1% of cases, but that number jumped to 9.5% by June. As of a few days ago, the estimate hit 20.6%. But Alpha was responsible for anywhere from 38 to 86% of all new U.S. cases last month. Experts agree, however, that Delta will likely become the most dominant strain soon, and spread like wildfire in parts of the country where vaccine hesitancy is the highest—creating “two Covid nations.”

 

Africa: is at the highest risk since most nations have vaccinated less than 5% of their populations:

 

“Surveillance in African countries is extremely limited, but there are hints that the variant is already causing cases there to surge. Several sequences of the variant have been reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where an outbreak in the capital city of Kinshasa has filled hospitals. The variant has also been detected in Malawi, Uganda and South Africa. Countries that have close economic links to India, such as those in East Africa, are probably at the greatest risk of seeing a surge in cases caused by Delta.”

 

South America: has remained mostly untouched, including Covid-ravaged countries like Brazil—due to travel restrictions. 

 

Point to note: Epidemiologists warn that Delta may irrevocably alter the future of the pandemic—triggering new waves across the world:

 

“This combination of high transmissibility, high severity, and escape from vaccines makes Delta a very, very dangerous variant… It's going to be quite hard to contain, and very likely will become the dominant variant in a matter of weeks. It could change the trajectory of the global pandemic.”

 

And what’s this new horror called Delta plus?

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Smart And Curious

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