GUEST BLOG: Ian Powell – Is Delta Plus coming (the Boris variant)?

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On 20 October the BBC published the kind of news that no-one would have wanted to know about: The heading alone was scary: Covid-19: New mutation of Delta variant under close watch in UK.

This possible new more deadly Covid-19 variant than Delta is being referred to by some as ‘Delta Plus’. However, caution is required. This is investigative work with testing currently in progress. No conclusions have yet been made. Although unlikely, depending on how things unfold, there is potential risk to New Zealand.

Nevertheless, given how much effort the United Kingdom government misled by Boris Johnson has put into assisting the further mutation of Delta, if the worst happens then I would argue the new variant should be called ‘Boris’.

A new descendant

What the BBC reveals is that in the UK a close watch on a new descendant of the Delta variant of Covid that is causing a growing number of infections. While Delta is the dominant variant it now appears that 6% of infections that have been genetically sequenced are of a new type. This ‘Delta Plus’ (officially AY.4.2) contains mutations that might give the virus survival advantages.

Tests are under way to understand how much of a threat it may pose although, at this stage, it not yet considered a ‘variant of concern’ or a ‘variant under investigation’ (these are categories assigned to variants and the level of risk associated with them).

Delta was classified as a variant of concern in the UK in May 2021 surpassing the Alpha variant to become the dominant type of Covid in circulation. Delta Plus was identified in July. To date, it appears that it is not considerably more transmissible than Delta but it is still being investigated.

There have been thousands of mutations (changes in the internal composition of the virus) of the original Covid-19. Many are inconsequential but some variants emerging out of them are worrying and keeping scientists busy with testing. It is difficult spotting, tracking and managing the ones that could matter.

Detection steps

The first step is to pick up new mutants worth watching such as Delta Plus. Second, if there is a strong suggestion that the genetic changes might make the virus more contagious, it is classified as a ‘variant under investigation’ and more checks are done.

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The third step occurs should it become clearer that investigated variant might be more transmissible and escape some of the built up immunity from past infections or vaccines, or potentially cause more serious disease. If so, it is categorised as a ‘variant of concern’ which is Delta’s categorisation.

The current stage of scientific investigation into Delta Plus is that it is unlikely to take off or escape vaccines despite being up to 10% more transmissible. Instead it is more likely to burn out and drop off the watch list. At this stage scientists are advising, while still investigating, ‘wait and see’.

Boris ignores scientists advice – again

When Boris Johnson’s government brought the UK out of lockdown on 19 July he was ending a protracted and debilitating process. This unfortunate process was due to incompetent leadership causing failure to follow and act quickly on scientific advice.

Had his government followed New Zealand’s successful ‘fast and hard’ zero tolerance approach the UK would have been much better positioned to exit lockdown.

Nevertheless, coming out of lockdown was understandable. But Johnson again chose to ignore the advice of scientists. They had recommended that several restrictions and other public health measures (including improved ventilation standards in hotels and schools for example) be put in place.

According to the scientists, preliminary modelling data suggested that the government’s approach would provide fertile ground for the emergence of vaccine-resistant variants. This would place everyone at risk, including those already vaccinated, within the UK and globally. While vaccines could be updated, this requires time and resources, leaving many exposed in the interim.

Virus variant school graduation

One description of Johnson’s decision to disregard this advice was that it was like opening a school for virus variants to learn how to get around vaccines. The experience of Delta Plus confirms this warning. The fact that Delta Plus may not graduate in his ‘education system’ does not diminish the risk.

If it does graduate to a ‘variant of concern’ then far away New Zealand will have reason to be worried. In this case Delta Plus should be renamed the ‘Boris variant’. Perhaps it should earn a graduate diploma!

Ian Powell was Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, the professional union representing senior doctors and dentists in New Zealand, for over 30 years, until December 2019. He is now a health systems, labour market, and political commentator living in the small river estuary community of Otaihanga (the place by the tide). First published at Otaihanga Second Opinion

23 COMMENTS

  1. The new variant is already there and it seems to be spreading fast, currently in England, Israel ……….
    AY.4.2
    https://www.firstpost.com/india/new-delta-plus-covid-19-strain-on-rise-in-uk-is-variant-more-contagious-should-india-be-worried-10081701.html
    Quote
    “A new mutation of the Delta variant of COVID-19 , which was being monitored and assessed in the UK, has now been classed as a Variant Under Investigation (VUI) amid concerns of its increased growth rate, with experts warning it is a reminder that the pandemic is not over.

    AY.4.2, dubbed ‘Delta Plus’ and now named VUI-21OCT-01 by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), has been under closer scrutiny in recent days after evidence indicated that it spread more quickly than the dominant Delta variant. Quote end.

    When oh when will people understand that the plague don’t give two shits about us, and that really it is up to us to get one with it.
    1st. Pretend everyone has the plague
    2nd. Pretend you have the plague
    3rd. Behave accordingly and keep yourself and others safe.
    4th. Hopefully survive – and it remains what survival actually means considering that we might only be at the beginning of this particular plague.

  2. Will be interesting to see the anti-Vaxxers response when Auckland gets out control in the next few month’s which is highly likely. Once the AY.4.2 gets in here and takes off we should see more responsibility and uptake by the likes of Bishop Brian Tamaki and his Flock.

    • Tamaki is refusing to say if he has had a jab; I think we can all be sure he had it months ago – there is no way he would risk getting Covid and actually dieing, wouldn’t do his image any good at all. He says he won’t reveal if he has had a jab because that would influence others. How rediculous can he get – his Destiny company’s income is solely derived from him influenceing others. Convenient double standards.

    • bet the lords messenger has already had jabs and anti-virals up the wazhoo, he’s in the business of fleecing his flock and risking their lives, not putting his own worthless hide on the lines.

      …a hypocrite is a hypocrite is a hypocrite

      • Loves being at the Centre of Attention hopefully he has been jabbed otherwise it could spread through the flock if there is an outbreak in his Destiny Bubble however the Good Lord will save the flock.

  3. I was watching YouTube last night of recent hospitals overwhelmed in parts of USA, Russia, Romania and Syria. Faark being there! The last three, it boiled down to qty of vaccinated, money, hospital resources including exhausted depressed staff. Truly frightening is the scale of misery and despair on the front lines in some parts of overseas. We have precious little time left in NZ, use it wisely everyone. Please reconsider vaccinating yourselves for those who haven’t. We need as many as we can get. We need to unite and prepare to fight our common enemy, covid. I truly hope we can rise above our fears and discord and help eachother on this one. Synergy is most effective the more if us who come together / unite. Stand firm, hang onto your mental health and please hold the line

  4. Be very afraid, but don’t worry because no doubt the Pfizer will be shown to have at least 110% efficacy. Line up boys and girls.

      • Hong Ika, yes. I could wait until the jab has full Medsafe approval. I could wait until the govt and media stop censoring doctors.
        I’m taking no more of a chance than an asthmatic, a diabetic, the obese etc. I am well aware of my risk. But that’s not your concern if you’ve been double jabbed, soon to be tripled and quadrupled and you’ll have a great social credit score too. Then boosters on top of that. Life can be risky at times.

        • That is a totally selfish view Off White. If you are unvaxed and get Covid the high probabilty is you will fill a hospital bed denying it to others; you need to consider what it means to be part of a community. Are you prepared to refuse to go to hospital if you get Covid?

    • Really didn’t think that one through did you… This is actually a serious situation coming toward us, and the best people can do is make stupid and thoughtless jokes? Fuck off back to la la land with you..

    • Off white – Why bother to put up careless smart-arse comments. We know the problem is serious and neither the authorities nor you are completely correct and capable of solution. Taking pot shots at authority is self-indulgent. We are all in this together. If you have an idea that is practical let’s hear it. – otherwise STFU.

      This is latest news and opinion from authority – just to be informed.
      https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/2018817825/sir-david-skegg-on-traffic-light-system-and-reopening-nz
      …Epidemiologist Professor Sir David’s group has submitted several reports to the government and gave advice on the Covid Protection Framework – or traffic light system – outlined on Friday.
      Living in the South Island himself, Sir David said the first case there in more than a year should be a wake-up call. “I get very exasperated hearing people saying, ‘Oh, why are we in alert level 2?’…

      This virus is going to turn up all over New Zealand. It’s not going to be a question if the South Island is pure. We’re all going to have to face it.”…
      “Our group was asked to give advice on what the strategy should be for New Zealand after completion of the vaccination programme,” he told Nine To Noon.

    • Off White, it’s ok to be afraid of a vaccination that isn’t 100% effective for everyone etc. I was too for a while. I have hard anti Vax whanau but I made my own decision to get double jabbed. I’m relieved I can now focus outside of my own existence once again. We don’t know the long term affects of Pfizer jabs yet. If we could get world heard immunity asap, that would be awesome. I truly hope you don’t get sick etc. I truly hope you have researched from reliable and preferably peer reviewed sources where possible. All the best! from your fellow kiwi

  5. Hey, I’d just point out that ALL mutations observed – 100%, there are not exceptions.. occur in viruses and animals when they lose information due to an encoding, genetic error.

    Such a lose of information can cause bacteria, viruses, whatever to be rendered useless/extinct or conversely harmful. Hopefully any further loss of information makes Covid-19 even less potent.

    As for vaccines, the proteins targeted by Ugur Sahin in Covid-19’s spike-cleave-site and reproduced using messenger RNA.. if such proteins mutated away.. well.. Covid-19 wouldn’t be a problem anymore, it wouldn’t exists/function.

    Given Covid-19’s infamous origins, I wouldn’t be surprised if its potency continues to diminish over time, if it keeps ‘mutating’ [aka losing information]. Granted it didn’t flame-out over Asia.. though this could be due to the Military Games held in Wuhan..

  6. I’m sorry. I really am. But.
    I can’t help but arrange the pieces of the last few years into something that seems, to me at any rate, something that makes sense.
    ( And I won’t be the only one. I don’t pretend to be that clever. Well, that’s not entirely correct. I do ‘pretend’ to be that clever but don’t worry, I’m not. )
    Our biosphere’s unarguably over populated by consumer-humans.
    That’s a species of human who consume far more than they need which ties in with a consumer oriented banking system of supply to enable that kind of over-consumption for which money is received.
    Our atmosphere, land and our water are dangerously polluted as a result of that. There are scary imbalances in population spread with far too many people who are mono-skilled while living cheek by jowl with others within densely populated cities from one pay check to the other. The fragility of that, is astounding to this poor bastard.
    So…?
    There are far too many of us consuming far more than we need which is causing our biosphere’s fragile and unique systems to fail rapidly.
    What would you do if you could act unilaterally? If you ‘had’ to act while keeping personal feelings out of the way?
    What does a farmer do when presented with a rabbit infestation?
    You cull the rabbits.
    Over population, over consumption, over heating climate, exhaustion of vital resources…
    We’re about to be culled. It’ll be done dispassionately, without conscience, and it’ll be non selective.
    Most of us have to go. There’s no real choice. And even if there was a choice, we couldn’t choose anyway. We’re far too busy fighting and disagreeing and squabbling like horny baboons. There’s nothing, in a general sense, that unites humanity yet there are a million reasons why we must hate and mistrust each other while we praise the lord and pass the ammunition.
    I think of covid as a film script. It’s had its beginnings, now we’re seeing its character arch reach its zenith and as new and far more deadly variants evolve we’re going to see a pretty fucking gory end and I think the most likely scenario will be as humanity dies en mass the last thing our fading eyesight will see is the super rich heading into space to wait it out.
    Bezos and his floating Bimbo collection, Musk with his ego, Branson with his hair and others too who we will have never heard of. The hyper rich who’ve planned the days to come.
    AO/NZ had a fighting chance though, I think. We fucked it, but we did have a chance. We should have kept the borders closed. Who cares about the bills? Who cares what the global bankster bullies would have said or tried to do? Who cares? Would you care about economics if you suddenly couldn’t breath?
    Jonky came spinning in ,spun out, then spun off again? Who cares, though?
    We have a rich country yet we have poverty. Why? Who cares?
    None of that will matter and sooner than we think.
    Old rules are gone. New rules now apply.
    Close the borders. Close our country off to random foreigners. Lets think of us first? That selfish fucking idiot who brought the variant back to AO/NZ from Australia, from a trade fair, was it? He should have been forced to stay in quarantine. Why was he able to go to Australia then back and infect us?
    The South Island is C-19 variant free which suggests our entire country should have been free and yet the idiocy of woke-ness sees us with a cluster fuck.
    Close the borders. Release our farmers from under the boot of foreign banksters and we might just flourish while the rest of our planet’s human population die where they fall over.
    In my opinion, there’s a direct correlation between c-19 mutating, the weird and sudden urge by the hyper riche to go romantically into the infinity of the cold vacuum and void of space and a planet that’s staring down its death throws our greed and stupidity initiated.
    Close. The. Borders.
    Not partially, not slightly, not now and then.
    Close the borders, as tight as a fishes ear.

  7. I heard a good comparison the other day….

    it’s the 1940 (so beloved of the brexiteers) the Luftwaffe is overhead, nights and nights of continuous raids and some smartarse has open curtains and has blazing lights..
    .cuz freedumbs…
    that went down like a cup of cold sick and landed people in pokey for accidental instances, people who insisted on guiding german bombers would have got very short shrift….just sayin…just putting it in terms rightards can possibly grasp.

  8. Country Boy, I have considered all your points myself during 2020 lockdown and came to the same conclusions. I would say mass death and suffering needs to happen in order to change, it is the human way. History teaches us this is the only fast way to shift the paradigm globally. I expect I will one to die. hope I’m wrong on all counts, but it’s probably best, for my son’s generation and beyond, that a lot of us cease to be. Divine? Dunno, but it does make one think. Also: Elisium, District 9 and many many other movies come to mind. Plus David Attenborough’s warning the planet needs to get back to “wilding” in order to rebalance, before it’s too late. I always wanted to be a prepper, but I got stuck renting and being evicted coz Rock Star economy housing Ponzi. Poor me, another drink. Cheers. Yes we should close the borders hard and get back to much simpler living. Thanks to people like yourself we are a nation excellent and growing food. We could weather out the covid storm down under for many many years I’d wager. Reminds me of another movie where they went underground for generations and forgot why or how to get back out. Logan’s Run as well, where you “expire” when you turn 30. Life immitating art, immitating life. We all die at the end. Happy happy joy joy

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