The Genome Sequencing of around 30 COVID-19 samples from Bhutan done in a lab in Bangkok show that the Delta Variant or B.1.617.2, first detected in India, is the main dominant COVID variant in Bhutan driving the cases here. It is in 87 percent of the samples, with 10 percent being the Beta variant first found in South Africa and three percent is the Alpha variant first found in UK.
At the moment, Delta variant is the world’s most transmissible variant which leads to higher rates of hospitalization, has greater immune or vaccine escape and attacks children.
The Health Minister had earlier said if this variant spreads among school going children then they will be affected the most. She had said it is of great concern and so the ministry is relooking at the guidelines.
Given the immune escape properties of Delta, studies are showing that the first dose of AstraZeneca provides only around 33% protection from infection with a second dose bumping it up to around 60%.
Data from UK which has done the most extensive studies on the delta variant show that a person is two and half times more likely to be hospitalized and that it could be around four times more infectious than the original Wuhan strain.
The delta strain can also result in more severe illness which may explain the more need for oxygen for Bhutanese patients this time.
The delta strain also attacks children unlike in the earlier strains and that explains the large number of children infected in the latest outbreak in Bhutan.
Health Minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo had said this is the main concern for now and what keeps her up at nights. She said the infectious strain in Bhutan could spread among school children and this is why they are completely relooking at the entire protocol to protect school children.
This variant is spreading rapidly across the world with it already being the dominant variant in UK and the fastest growing variant in USA.
The delta variant, has now spread to more than 80 countries and it continues to mutate as it spreads across the globe, World Health Organization officials have said.
The confirmation of this variant in Bhutan may explain why despite several lockdowns in Phuentsholing cases kept coming up and also the large number of cases in Samtse, Samdrupjongkhar and Merak.
The presence of this variant will mean that Bhutan will to redouble its efforts to keep COVID-19 out and take extra care in schools, public places etc.
A concern with the beta variant is a study in South Africa which showed reduced efficacy of AstraZeneca against it, though larger studies are needed.