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Coronavirus: How much is the Delta variant spreading in Spain?

The Local Spain
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Coronavirus: How much is the Delta variant spreading in Spain?
Where will masks still be necessary after June 26th. Photo: LLUIS GENE / AFP

Researchers and public health officials believe that the Delta variant of coronavirus, first identified in India, will become dominant in Spain in less than a month.


According to a new update of the epidemiological situation of Covid-19 variants in Spain, prepared by the Health Alerts and Emergencies Coordination Centre of the Ministry of Health, the Delta variant now accounts for four percent of the cases detected in Spain, three points more than a week ago.

Although the current predominant strain is still the B.1.1.7 or Alpha strain, which was first identified in the UK, the situation could change rapidly.

In Catalonia, 20 percent of new cases are due to the Delta variant, the region's health official Josep Maria Argimon told reporters at a press conference on June 17th, adding that it would be "predominant" in two to four weeks.

Although the data on sequencing for how many are infected with the Delta variant in Spain's other regions is limited, the Spanish Surveillance System (SiViEs) shows that the strain is already present across many of them.

The Health Ministry has so far only officially recorded 62 cases of the Delta variant in Spain, but several regions have reported many more cases than this. Galicia has reported 25 Delta variant infections, while Castilla y León are investigating 83 possible cases. 

The variant has also been found in Andalusia, the Balearic Islands, Canary Islands, Cantabria, Castilla-La Mancha, Castilla y León, the Valencian Community, Extremadura, Murcia, Navarra, La Rioja, Ceuta and Melilla.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus: Delta variant will be “predominant” in Spain, experts predict

Based on these figures in Catalonia, physicist Álex Arenas, who is an expert in using mathematical models to predict the spread of the virus, believes that the variant will become dominant across Spain in just a few weeks.

On June 22nd Doctor César Carballo, who works in the emergency department at the Hospital Ramón y Cajal in Madrid echoed these sentiments when he said in an interview with Antena 3 that the Delta variant was likely to become predominant in Spain in the space of just three to four weeks. He said that this was particularly worrisome because the strain is "between 60 and 90 percent more transmissible".


On June 23rd, the new variant already seemed to be having an effect when 20Minutos reported that the Covid-19 incidence rate rose in Spain for the first time since April due to the Delta strain and that the Spanish Health Ministry recorded another 29 deaths.

The Delta variant across Europe

While the Delta variant is now the dominant strain in the UK, it is also rapidly spreading across the continent.

Based on its higher transmissibility and model forecasts, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) predicts that 70 percent of new coronavirus infections will be due to this variant in the European Union in early August and "represent 90 percent of all SARS-CoV-2 viruses circulating in the EU at the end of August".

A new international report by the Financial Times together with data from Belgian research institute Sciensano, based on figures from the virus-variant tracking database Gisaid, places Italy fifth in the world for the share of cases driven by the spread of the Delta strain, coming in behind the UK, where the concentration of cases is 98 percent, followed by Portugal and Russia. 

While some countries have taken measures to stop the spread of the delta variant – Germany has closed its border to the UK and the Italian government has reinstated a mandatory quarantine and testing for travellers from the UK, amid growing concern over the strain, Spain’s borders remain open to UK travellers who are exempt from showing a negative Covid test or presenting a vaccination certificate.

READ ALSO: Spain clarifies: UK visitors will NOT need to show PCR test but will require health form

Delta variant ‘more transmissible’ than other variants

According to vaccine alliance Gavi, the Delta variant is rapidly spreading around the world and seems to be more transmissible than other variants.

In the UK, the first cases of the Delta variant were recorded in February and since then, this has surpassed the Alpha variant (UK variant), which was already believed to be 43-90 percent more transmissible than the original Wuhan strain in China, according to a study by Science magazine.

Last month, the World Health Organisation declared the Delta strain a “variant of concern”. A variant can be labelled as “of concern” if it has been shown to be more contagious, more deadly or more resistant to current vaccines and treatments, according to WHO.  

The Delta variant has the potential “to be more lethal because it’s more efficient in the way it transmits between humans and it will eventually find those vulnerable individuals who will become severely ill, have to be hospitalised and potentially die” Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, said during a recent news conference.

READ ALSO: Spain lifts Covid testing requirement for travellers from Germany, Italy, Austria and more EU countries


Delta’s response to vaccines and differing symptoms

The rising number of cases has caused concern that this will halt the progress made by the EU after its vaccination rollout, due to how rapidly it spreads and its potential resistance to current vaccines.

According to a study by The Lancet, the Delta variant is responsible for twice as many hospitalisations than the Alpha variant. The findings were based on hospitalisations reported in Scotland over two months.

After just a single dose of the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine, there is a much lower level of protection against the Delta variant, according to research – just 33 percent in the case of Pfizer.

The good news is however that the latest data from Public Health England shows that those who are fully vaccinated are more protected from the potentially serious consequences of this strain.


The study found that “the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 88 percent effective against symptomatic disease from the B.1.617.2 variant 2 (Delta) weeks after the second dose, compared to 93 percent effectiveness against the B.1.1.7 variant (UK variant)". 

“Two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were 60 percent effective against symptomatic disease from the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant compared to 66 percent effectiveness against the B.1.1.7 (UK) variant.”

Studies have also found that symptoms from the Delta variant are different from other strains, with the most common symptoms reported including headache, followed by a sore throat, runny nose and fever, according to the Covid Symptom Study.

Other symptoms, such as coughing and loss of smell or taste have almost disappeared, the study found.

Dr. Andrea Ammon, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) Director said: “It is very likely that the Delta variant will circulate extensively during the summer, particularly among younger individuals that are not targeted for vaccination”.

 “The good news is that having received two doses of any of the currently available vaccines provides high protection against this variant and its consequences. However, about 30 percent of individuals older than 80 years and about 40 percent of individuals older than 60 years have not yet received a full vaccination course in the European Union.”



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