New delta variant 'affecting same parts of Luton community' as previous Covid outbreaks
The Covid-19 delta variant is about 40% more transmissible and is affecting the same parts of the Luton community as previous coronavirus outbreaks, a meeting heard.
But the resulting illness is no more serious than for the alpha variant, Luton Borough Council's scrutiny health and social care review group was told.
Interim director of public health Sally Cartwright said: "As of yesterday (Monday) our figures are 95 per 100,000 cases a week. We were just above 100 a few days ago.
"It's gone down a little which is positive, although there's a recognition in the system that we need to be really vigilant still.
"With the position in Bedford over how quickly the case rates increase and the implications of the delta variant transmissibility we need to be careful.
"The national testing strategy finishes on Tuesday, June 30, so we've made a decision what to do locally once that protocol ends.
"We all agree we don't want to stop doing community testing at this critical point."
The population and community of Luton have thoroughly engaged with testing themselves twice weekly and know where to go, according to Ms Cartwright.
"We're continuing the mobile testing van in St George's Square and using our buses more to take tests out to the community, changing the locations," she added.
"The delta variant is the dominant one in Luton, so any clusters we're following up as we've been doing throughout.
"The evidence is showing the delta variant isn't more severe in terms of the illness it causes, but it's more transmissible so we need to remain vigilant.
"If it's more transmissible and greater numbers are becoming ill that would have a knock-on even without it being a more acute illness."
Labour South councillor David Agbley referred to the delta variant not leading to a loss of taste and smell, saying the symptoms are completely different.
"Is anything being done to inform the local population about this?" he asked.
She replied: "I'm aware the symptoms of the delta variant cover a wider range, while there are others which are under review.
"We're waiting for national guidance on that. I'll see whether we need to change the message around that."
Councillor Agbley wondered whether the delta variant is tending to affect the same communities as before in the town.
Ms Cartwright explained: "Throughout the pandemic we've seen nationally and in Luton rates are highest in areas where people are having to go to work because of the nature of their jobs.
"Also where there's housing in multiple occupation (HMOs) or where homes are densely packed together.
"There are certain risk factors which make people more likely to acquire Covid from their day-to-day lives.
"That has translated into certain ethnicities being more likely to be exposed to Covid, but it's a complicated picture relating to those other areas I've just mentioned.
"We've seen geographical areas of Luton having more cases and certain ethnic and more deprived groups as well."
Asked by Liberal Democrat Round Green councillor Steve Moore how much more transmissible the delta variant is, she said: "The evidence is showing it's about 40 per cent more.
"There are other variants coming in, which are reviewed and under surveillance to get that understanding."