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Coronavirus: Where is the Delta variant spreading in Italy?

Coronavirus: Where is the Delta variant spreading in Italy?
Photo: MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP
As the Italian government confirmed on Friday that the country is seeing more outbreaks caused by the Delta variant of coronavirus, we look at where the clusters being detected around the country.

Until now, the risk posed by Delta in Italy has largely been dismissed by Italian authorities, who were describing its presence as “rare” in the country as recently as last week

However, this week authorities are re-evaulating their strategy for mitigating the risks posed by the more infectious new strain after Italy’s independent health watchdog, the GIMBE Foundation, criticised the government for its response.

The health ministry on Friday instructed regional health authorities to carry out more tracing and sequencing of variants after the Higher Health Institute (ISS) revised its figures, now estimating that the number of infections caused by the Delta and Kappa variants in Italy have increased by 16.8 percent in June, up from 4.2 percent in May.

READ ALSO:Italian health experts warn about Delta variant as vaccine progress slows

“From our epidemiological surveillance, a rapidly evolving picture emerges that confirms that also in our country, as in the rest of Europe, the Delta variant of the virus is becoming prevalent,” said Anna Teresa Palamara, director of ISS’s infectious diseases department.

According to the latest ISS data, the SARS-CoV-2 variant prevalent in Italy was found to be the Alpha variant (B.1.1.7), responsible for 74.9 of cases. This is now also the most prevalent globally.

Cases associated with Kappa and Delta variants (B.1.617.1/2) “are few overall in January to June”, the report added. But it stated that the frequency and spread of these reports has rapidly increased across the country.

The new ISS figure however is still lower than GIMBE’s estimate on Thursday that Delta now accounts for as much as 32 percent of cases.

Coronavirus: How much is the Delta variant spreading in Italy?

So how prevalent is the strain really and where is it being detected?

Several regions have already reported cases of the Delta variant, though the amount of test result sequencing and analysis carried out by local health authorities in Italy varies and is often low.

Each region volunteers to do genetic sequencing of positive swabs, which means that Italy has less data available about the spread of variants than countries where sequencing is more widespread and systematic, such as the UK or Denmark.

Following the latest health monitoring report on Friday, more local health authorities have said they will now start taking steps to identify the new strain in order to better understand the development of the outbreak.

For now, here are the regions providing Delta-strain data this week, and the data available on cases confirmed so far.

Emilia Romagna – Lombardy

25 positive cases have been found between Piacenza in Emilia Romagna and Cremona in Lombardy, detected in a logistics hub involving employees and their family and friends.

“We have contacted about 800 people to undergo a swab as part of the contact tracing of the coronavirus for the Delta variant outbreak in the Piacenza area, but almost 300 of them have yet to show up for the test,” Marco Delledonne, head of Piacenza’s public health department, told TV chat show ‘Mattino 5′, reported news agency Ansa.

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“Now we are also activating the local police to track them down because they are not being found,” he added.

The director general of Piacenza’s health authority, Luca Baldino said tests “would be compulsory but people are escaping,” according to the news report. He added that the infected were “all unvaccinated”, both the workers and their friends and relatives.

Lombardy’s councillor for welfare, Letizia Moratti, stated the Delta variant counts for a total of 3.25 percent of all cases, reported news website Adnkronos.

From the data collected so far in June on the new virus strains in Lombardy, the Alpha variant, first identified in England, is dominant with 64 percent of the total number of variants, followed by the Indian (Delta 3.25 percent, Kappa 0.8 percent), the Brazilian (1 percent) and the South African (2 percent).

Campania

83 cases of Delta variant have been recorded in the areas of ‘Napoli 3 Sud’, a grouping of 56 municipalities, which include Sorrento and Pompeii, reported Ansa.

None of the cases has required hospitalisation so far. Of the 83 cases, 44 have been identified in an outbreak in Torre del Greco in Naples, the municipality with the highest number of inhabitants in the whole local health authority.

“We are working to try to identify ‘patient 1’. The same goes for the case of the cluster detected in a gymnasium in Agerola, where about 10 cases have been recorded. We are also working to trace all the close contacts of the positive subjects,” said the health director of Campania’s health authority, Gaetano D’Onofrio.

“We must make a clear distinction between cases and relapses in hospitals. It is true that recently there have been more infections in relation to the so-called Delta variant, but it is also true that this has not affected the health structures,” he added.

Photo: Pau BARRENA/AFP

Friuli-Venezia Giulia

The Alpha variant is the dominant strain in this region followed by the Delta variant and then the Brazilian variant, according to the vice-governor of the region’s health authorities, Riccardo Riccardi, reported Ansa.

In a sample of 96 cases detected in the region, the presence of the Alpha variant was found in 50 cases, spread across Gorizia, Trieste, Pordenone and Udine.

As for the Delta variant, there were 28 cases in the sample across Trieste, Pordenone and Gorizia.

Abruzzo

At least five Delta variant cases have been identified in the Teramo and Chieti areas of this region, reported Abruzzo Live.

The new cases emerged from the analysis of 3,378 molecular swabs with just over 1 percent of the samples testing positive.

Three cases were reported by the Teramo Local Health Authority, one reported in the Chieti area and one in Vasto.

Sardinia

15 people were found to be infected with the Delta strain in the north of the island, following the discovery of 22 confirmed cases of Covid-19 among crew members involved in the filming of the Disney movie, ‘The Little Mermaid’, reported newspaper Il Messaggero.

The presence of the variant was detected by genome sequencing carried out by a hospital laboratory in Sassari, which is now also working on sequencing the Brazilian variant.


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