COVID-19 Delta variant in GCC; UAE doctors tell residents to remain cautious

As WHO confirms detection of Delta variant in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar, experts urge residents to get vaccinated

  
People wearing protective face masks wait for vaccine trials at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, October 6, 2020.

People wearing protective face masks wait for vaccine trials at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, October 6, 2020.

REUTERS/ Khushnum Bhandari
Medical experts in the UAE have urged residents to get vaccinated and take a cautious approach as the Delta variant of Covid-19 — first identified in India — has now been detected in all the other GCC countries.

According to the World Health Organisation’s weekly epidemiological update, the Delta variant has been found in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar. Except for Oman, the WHO confirmed the findings in other GCC nations through its official sources. In Oman, the WHO said the information was received from unofficial sources and will be reviewed.

Dr Muhammed Ayoob, specialist pulmonary disease, NMC Specialty Hospital, Abu Dhabi, said the Delta variant is more contagious than the Alpha strain and carries a greater risk of hospitalisation.

“Symptoms develop more quickly in Delta-variant patients and becomes more severe than in those infected with other variants. Viral loads also climb faster and decline more slowly.”

The WHO has termed the Delta variant as a ‘variant of concern’. However, doctors underlined that people need not be apprehensive and instead should continue to follow precautionary measures, avoid large gatherings and take both doses of the vaccines.

Dr Saheer Sainalabdeen, specialist respiratory medicine, Medeor Hospital Dubai, said: “A strain becomes a ‘variant of concern’ when it’s more transmissible, causes more severe disease, reduces the effectiveness of treatment or less neutralising antibodies from the vaccine, or reduces the effectiveness of diagnostic tests.”

Dr Sainalabdeen said the Delta variant is already a dominant strain and found in other GCC countries. He urged unvaccinated people to take the jab at the earliest.

“In the UAE, people should be cautious about this strain and not worry. Along with the normal precautions of wearing a mask properly, social distancing, and frequent hand-washing, we should avoid large gatherings and crowded places to reduce the transmission risk. The best way to prevent this is to take both doses of the vaccine.”

Echoing similar views, Dr Azeem Mohamad, specialist, internal medicine, Bareen International Hospital, Abu Dhabi, said vaccination is the best form of defence against the new variant.

“The ratio of Delta variant detected in persons who have received two doses of vaccine is very less compared to the unvaccinated. The UAE has vaccinated more than 87 per cent of the eligible population. So, we are at an advantage in terms of vaccine-induced immunity, which confers protection against such variants to a great extent.”

Citing research conducted in the UK, doctors said two doses of Pfizer-BioNtech or AstraZeneca vaccines were effective against the Delta variant. Meanwhile, they said studies are ongoing with Sinopharm to ascertain its effectiveness against the variant.

“Priority should be given to vaccinating everyone to maximise global protection against new variants and minimise the risk of transmission. As more people get vaccinated, we expect virus circulation to decrease, which will then lead to fewer mutations,” Dr Ayoob added.

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