Professor Neil Ferguson has warned that the Delta variant of coronavirus could be up to 100% more transmissible than other mutations.
Prof Ferguson, the Imperial College London epidemiologist responsible for coronavirus modelling used by the government, said the variant could be up to 100% more transmissible than others.
Speaking to BBC’s Today Programme, he said that the Delta variant was likely to be 60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant that emerged in Kent.
“There’s some uncertainty around that, depending on assumptions and how you analyse the data. Between about 30 and maybe even up to 100 per cent more transmissible.” he said.
The Delta variant, which was first detected in India, has now become the most dominant strain of coronavirus in the UK.
Though Prof Ferguson said that the Covid vaccine offers a good degree of protection, he warned that the Delta variant may be able to partially escape vaccine immunity.
He added, however, that vaccines are having a substantial impact on transmission, with most hospitalisations for coronavirus of people who have not been vaccinated.
“It’s clear that the vaccines are still having a substantial effect,” he said. Adding: “If you haven’t been vaccinated … there appears to be at least a two-fold increased risk of hospitalisation,” referring to data from Pubic Health England and Public Health Scotland.
The government has shown no signs of backing down on the planned lockdown easing on June 21, but Prof Ferguson has indicated that caution must be taken.
“I think the data is pointing this week in a more negative direction than it was last week,” he said, adding that the Delta variant has been doubling across the UK every nine days.
More data was needed, he said, to assess the full impact of the most recent lockdown easing on May 17.
He added : “We haven’t yet been able to pin down how it translate translates into hospitalisations. We’re seeing an hospitalisations in the north west, and a couple of other areas, but it’s too early to say, and that’s critical because we do expect vaccines to give a high level of protection still, but exactly how high its critical what size third wave we might see.”