THE DELTA variant of Covid-19 will "almost certainly" be the dominant strain mid-way through next month, the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has warned.
This will lead to an increase in case numbers, hospitalisations and deaths, according to virologist Dr Cillian de Gascun.
The Delta variant is reportedly between 40-60% more transmissible than the Alpha strain (Kent/English variant) of Covid-19, which has been dominant in Ireland for the last five months.
It's understood that the Delta variant now accounts for just over half of all Ireland's current Covid cases, and Dr de Gascun says that it's only a matter of time before it completely takes over as the country's dominant strain.
"Because the Alpha variant was itself significantly more transmissible than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, we can say that Delta is almost certainly at least twice as transmissible as the virus we experienced last summer," De Gascun said.
In the UK, Delta is the dominant variant, accounting for approximately 97% of cases. As a consequence, case numbers, hospitalisations, & deaths have increased in recent weeks. ECDC also predicts that Delta will be responsible for 90% of EU/EEA infections by the end of August 9/n
— Cillian De Gascun (@CillianDeGascun) June 29, 2021
While the fatality rate for the Delta variant (0.3%) is lower than that of the Alpha variant (2%), its hospitalisation rate is nearly double that Alpha's.
The Delta variant's comparatively low fatality rate could also be put down to the emergence and administration of vaccines since it was identified in Ireland.
Troublingly, de Gascun noted that the variant is associated with a reduction in vaccine effectiveness, particularly after one dose.
"Although this is concerning, vaccine effectiveness against Delta is high after two doses, and vaccine effectiveness against hospitalisation is maintained," he said.