JEDDAH: The rapid speed of transmission of the Delta variant of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a cause of major concern, a doctor speaking at a recent online press conference titled “Towards a Safe Healthy Hajj” told Arab News.
The B.1.617.2. strain is a mutation that first appeared in India, in December 2020, and the virus has become the dominant strain in both India and the UK, according to Yale Medicine.
Saudi Arabia has this year limited the number of people permitted to attend the Hajj pilgrimage to lessen the spread of COVID-19.
Dr. Ashraf Amir, consultant in family medicine, who highlighted that the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) raised the alarm on the new Delta variant, told Arab News: “This (variant) is the real concern, the global concern, and the WHO and international CDC declared that there is an alarming sign that there is another epidemic sweeping the whole world by the new variant of COVID-19.
“We have been living with a certain strain of COVID-19 for the past one and a half years, but now we have been confronted with different, more virulent variants of COVID-19 — one in England, which is Alpha, Beta in South Africa and Gamma in Brazil.”
He added: “The most serious one is the Delta variant that was discovered in India in December, and it was announced shortly (after) that it was the reason for the (new wave of the) pandemic.”
Amir said the Delta variant is 50 percent more transmissible than the original COVID-19 strain.
“Just yesterday, I was following the new WHO publications and they said more than 140 different countries have been infected with the Delta virus. But the good thing we have done is the choice of the vaccinations that we have,” he said.
He gave examples of how AstraZeneca and Pfizer’s vaccines lessened risk of hospitalization from the Delta variant. “Pfizer gives protection from hospitalization from Delta to 96 percent, and from the symptoms to about 80 to 88 percent. AstraZeneca provides 92 percent protection from hospitalization and I believe 60 or 70 percent for the symptoms,” said Amir.
Although being vaccinated provides protection from hospitalization and lessens severity of symptoms, he said the aim is to maintain preventative measures and responsibility among individuals, and for communities to maintain social distance, wear masks and have proper sanitization.
He also highlighted that Saudi Arabia has kept a close eye on emerging variants and is taking the necessary preventative steps to halt its spread in the country.
“We must have a sense of responsibility and commitment towards our community; if you have symptoms that are deviating from the norm, you have to seek medical advice immediately,” he added. “Thankfully, we are safe because we have been proactively anticipating the problem and taking the proper measures, and the awareness of the community is becoming more appropriate than it was before.”