The COVID Delta variant (B.1.617.2), which started spreading widely in India last October, is highly transmissible and might cause more severe illness and hence death. It has spread to many countries and is now the dominant strain in the UK. This website has up-to-date stats on the proportion of (tested) cases that are the Delta variant. In the week ending 24 June, Delta accounted for 16.7% of positive COVID-19 tests in Switzerland. In comparison it accounted for 62% of cases in Australia and 96% of cases in the UK. In terms of actual number of cases in the week, those percentages correspond to 52 cases in Switzerland, 9354 cases in the UK. And 16 cases in Australia.
The good news (at least for us in Switzerland) is that both the mRNA vaccines in use here (Moderna and Pfizer) are effective against the Delta variant. A single dose is 33% effective and two doses 88% effective. The AstraZenica vaccine in use in Australia and the UK is also about 33% effective for a single dose, and 60% effective after two doses. All the vaccines appear to substantially reduce the likelihood of severe illness and death. Currently, around 55% of the Swiss population are fully vaccinated (two doses) and the government aims to raise that to 80% by the end of the summer. Currently less than 5% of Australians are fully vaccinated and new lockdowns are being implemented across Australia. Sydney, Perth, Darwin and now Brisbane are all in lockdown, and Victoria just exited one.
The disastrous mishandling of the vaccine roll-out in Australia is entirely down to Scott Morrison, as the Australian prime minister has insisted on taking full federal responsibility for it. The folly of the government’s over-reliance on the AstraZenecca vaccine has now escalated into a public health disaster. Falsely claiming delays, EU blocks and supply issues, the problem of insufficient vaccines has been compounded as AstraZenecca is no longer advised for people under 50, leaving millions of Australians with no immediate prospect of vaccination. To make matters worse, the Prime Minister a couple of days ago off-the-cuff told reporters that any Australian over 16 could request vaccination by their GP. This directly contradicting the advice of government Chief Medical Officers, who had not been consulted, and left GPs confused as to whether this had involved any change to the legal indemnity rules for GPs (which currently would not cover GPs if a patient under 40 developed blood clots from the AstraZenica vaccination.
Stephen Duckett, a former head of the Victorian Health Department, has examined how the vaccine rollout was comprehensively bungled in a recent article on The Conversation.