COVID-19 Delta Variant

By Gwamaka Mwakyusa – Art in Tanzania internship

Delta variant, a strain of Covid-19 that wreaked havoc during India’s second wave, has been identified in at least 85 countries. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the delta covid variant is the most transmissible of all the variants identified so far. Acknowledging the contagious nature of the delta Covid-19 variant that was first identified in India, the WHO on June 25 urged vaccinated people to continue wearing masks.

The delta variant, or B.1.617.2, which was first identified in India in October 2020, has now become the dominant strain in the UK, currently accounting for more than 90% of coronavirus cases there. Meanwhile, in the US, the delta variant accounts for more than a third of new cases, according to Financial Times analysis. The former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Scott Gottlieb told ‘CBS News’ Face the Nation’ that the United States is likely to witness “very dense outbreaks” due to the delta variant.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that delta accounted for 20.6% of all Covid-19 cases between June 5 and June 19.

This surge has led Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to the White House, to label the variant as the “greatest threat” to the country’s attempt to eradicate Covid-19.

Both the UK and US have high vaccination rates, and it remains to be seen whether their populations are protected against this Covid strain. But in much of the rest of the world, where Covid-19 vaccines have not been administered at the same level, the concerns are even greater.

Covid delta variant on WHO’s radar

On June 25, the World Health Organization’s Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove in a press conference said that the delta variant is a dangerous virus. “It is more transmissible than the Alpha variant, which was extremely transmissible across Europe, across any country that it entered. The Delta variant is even more transmissible,” she explained during the conference.

Thus far, there are four “variants of concern” flagged by the WHO and seven “variants of interest.” Despite the strain being identified last year, the delta variant was tagged as a variant of concern only on May 11. This is because the WHO uses three parameters—increased transmissibility, more virulence, and decreased effectiveness of public health measures—to determine its seriousness.

The delay is also because there wasn’t enough genome sequencing data coming from India during its brutal second wave. Now, data from the Public Health England (PHE), the UK government’s health executive arm, have given scientists and public health experts around the world some ability to make sense of this Covid-19 variant.

What is the delta variant?

When Covid-19 infections broke out in Wuhan, China, that first strain was a “wild type” virus. This was the strain used by scientists across the world to develop testing kits, treatment plans, and even Covid vaccines.

It is in the nature of viruses to mutate, and it did. But not all mutations are serious, and usually do not require countries to reimagine their public health measures.

The variants of concern—Alpha (first identified in the UK), Beta (South Africa), Gamma (Brazil), and Delta—are different from all other countless variants for this very reason.

The delta variant has certain significant mutations in the spike protein of the virus—the pointy elements that give it the shape of a crown (which is why it’s called the coronavirus). These spikes are like hooks that have to find the receptors in a human cell to link with. Studies have shown that these spikes hook onto receptors called ACE-2. Once these spike proteins can unlock the cells, the infection spreads by replicating the genetic code of the virus.

Some key mutations in the delta variant—such as the E484Q, L452R, and P614R—make it easier for the spikes in the virus to attach to ACE-2 receptors. This means it can infect and replicate faster, and even evade the body’s natural disease-fighting immunity more efficiently.

The spike protein mutations make the delta variant the “fastest and fittest” variant yet, according to the WHO. The disease caused by this variant might also exhibit different symptoms than other viral mutations. Those infected with the delta variant develop symptoms such as headaches, sore throat, and a runny nose, replacing cough and loss of taste or smell like the most common symptoms.

Is the delta variant more transmissible?

“Most studies indicate delta is 50-60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant,” says Dr. Bhramar Mukherjee, associate director for quantitative data sciences at the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center. “The Alpha variant itself was nearly 50-60% more transmissible than the original strain.”

This, according to Mukherjee, implies that if the reproduction number for the original strain was around 2.4-2.6, the one for Alpha is 3.6-4.2, and for delta, it is 5.6-6.7. In layman terms, if a person infected with the original strain could infect nearly two people, a person with the Alpha variant could infect four people. With delta, one person could infect nearly seven other people. It’s important to remember that these are averages, not absolute numbers; one delta carrier might infect zero people, or 25.

Its higher reproduction number is likely why entire families in crowded Indian cities like Delhi and Mumbai were infected together. It would also explain the tsunami-like surge of cases in the country in April and May.

The other consequence of a higher reproduction number (denoted as R in epidemiological data) in an epidemic is that it increases the threshold for herd immunity. That is, more people will need to have the antibodies—either through infection or vaccination—to be protected as a community against the delta variant. “With an R of 2.5, the threshold for herd immunity is 60%, but with an R of 6, it is 83%,” explains Mukherjee.

Do vaccines work against the delta variant?

According to the CDC, studies show that the currently authorized vaccines which include Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson&Johnson or Janssen work on the circulating variants.

Dr. Gautam Menon, professor at the departments of physics and biology at Ashoka University in India said, “It is reasonably certain that the delta variant also exhibits some immune escape, although estimates vary as to the extent.” For instance, single doses of Covid-19 vaccines, according to data from the UK, are only 33% efficacious against the disease.

But there is hope that those who are fully vaccinated are reasonably protected against serious disease. According to data from PHE, Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine is 96% effective, and the AstraZeneca vaccine 92% effective against hospitalizations after two doses. These, PHE says, are comparable to efficacy against the Alpha variant.

This also means that getting a large part of the population fully vaccinated is crucial for countries where the delta variant is prevalent. For countries like the US, where nearly half the population is fully vaccinated, scientists suspect a varied impact of the delta variant. “I would expect some breakthrough infections and transmission happening even in highly vaccinated areas in the US, but would not expect a spike in hospitalizations and deaths,” Mukherjee says.

“We cannot be complacent with a large percentage only partially vaccinated, dropping masks and Covid-appropriate behaviors,” she adds. “We need full vaccination for a large fraction to fight the delta variant.” She also expects that in pockets of the US with lower vaccine coverage, cases of delta variant could rise.

Experts from WHO reiterated that the delta variant is spreading rapidly among unvaccinated populations. However, the health agency quickly noted that “vaccines are effective at preventing severe disease and death, including against the delta variants.

Can masks keep the delta variant in check?

Public health experts are investigating whether booster shots of vaccines will be needed to protect the population against the new variant.

Hence, the WHO is once again highlighting the need to wear masks. “Vaccine alone won’t stop community transmission,” said Mariangela Simao, the WHO’s assistant director-general for access to medicines and health products, during a briefing at the organization’s headquarters in Geneva. “People need to continue to use masks consistently, be in ventilated spaces, [practice] hand hygiene, [maintain] physical distance, avoid crowding,” she said,

Although Covid cases in the US have been steadily declining as vaccination rates are going up, it might be reaching an impasse. Joe Biden had set a target of immunizing 70% of adult Americans by July 4, but the country will fall short, reaching 67% of all eligible adults. Some 20% Americans say they don’t want to get the vaccine.

What is the delta plus variant?

The delta variant has developed a new mutation of a type that was first found in the Beta variant. The new variant—which is being labeled delta plus, though not officially by the WHO yet—additionally has the K417N mutation in its spike protein, which is associated with increased immunity escape.

Shahid Jameel, a top virologist in India, has said that delta plus could also render cocktail antibody treatments—like the one given to former US president Donald Trump—ineffective in fighting the disease. This variant could also potentially lead to vaccines being less effective. India has officially flagged delta plus a “variant of concern,” though after a great deal of indecision.

Menon says the delta plus variant is not a cause for worry yet but would be “if it began to replace the existing variants.” “Currently, there is no evidence that this is the case,” he says, “so there is no cause for immediate worry, but this may change, and we should be watchful for this.”

Mukherjee warns that India, where 40% of the population is below the age of 17 and not eligible for vaccines, needs to adhere to strong public health interventions to control the coronavirus pandemic. Besides scaling up vaccinations, she suggests better studies around the variants, an area where India has been particularly slow. “We need to study properties of these variants: what the clinical manifestations are, whether our diagnostic tests work well to detect them, whether treatments work well.”

The delta plus variant has now been detected in at least nine countries, including the UK, US, China, and Japan.

Government Expenditure to Combat Pandemic Situation

JAMES MATHEW MGAYA – Art in Tanzania internship

Other Africa countries have prioritized the pandemic and the accompanying lockdowns measures that have worsened the severe food insecurity problem, increasing the population of people living in extreme poverty. While Tanzania has opted for a different approach. Though Tanzania’s unconventional approach to COVID-19 may be slow in response ad seem to lack in direction, its uniqueness illustrates the need for government to form context-specific smart containment strategies and recovery plans. The Tanzania government’s expenditure was to maintain multiple competing priorities, so far the government did not ignore the pandemic by increase public health funding. Tanzania’s interest was to contain the transmission of the virus along all its borders and coordinate closely with its partners, maintain diplomatic relationships, ensure trade is not severely disrupted, and invest in formal small-holder farmers to produce for domestic economy.

How did it work?

Tanzania used its government expenditure to refocus on financial services which makes them among 14 African countries that did not introduce any social safety measures, such as cash transfers. Instead, the government focused on responding with some economic measures through the Bank of Tanzania with various policies to ease liquidity and safeguard the stability of the financial sector. The bank reduced the discount rate, lowered the minimum reserve requirements ratio, incentivised the restructuring of loans for severally affected borrowers, and relaxed limits on mobile money use.

Tanzanian government expenditure focused on increasing its capacity to maintain and manage the virus, while pursuing sustainable economic development. In other words, Tanzania can learn to adapt and live with the virus in a way that is not detrimental to the economy, but not overwhelming the health system. They fund health centres and witness the Covid-19 emergence facilities and also Government built special covid-19 health centres to combat it and increase public health funding to local health centres to implement mass testing, enforce social distancing, and sanitation measures.

Tanzanian government expenditure uses the Strategic Cities Project for Tanzania development objectives to facilitate the Additional Financing (AF) which enhances the development impact and sustainability of the investments financed by the original project by investing in equipment and operation, and maintenance capacity for existing infrastructure, and deepening local government capacity for urban management. These initiatives enable the government to maintain multiple competing priorities, managing the transmission rate, while ensuring food security creating and protecting jobs. 


The COVID-19 pandemic will have short-, medium-. and long-term effects on territorial development and sub-national government functioning and finance. One risk is that many governments respond to focus only on the short term. But the Tanzanian government use it’s expenditure to longer-term priorities must be included in the immediate response measures in order to boost the resilience of regional socio-economic systems. Much effort of Tanzanian government redirected to growth of economy during pandemic so as government expenditure was driven by strong public investment and export earnings. The government’s firm focus and commitment during this pandemic have been to avoid a complete halt of economic activities. 


The International Growth Centre – COVID-19 in Tanzania: Is business as usual response enough?


B Nyamboge Mwema Nyawangwe – Art in Tanzania internship

As well as it is known COVID-19 is a global pandemic in the whole world today. Tanzania is among one of the many countries that has been affected in many ways and one of the major areas is in the economic sector. Since last April to May 2020 there was a huge rise of cases regarding COVID-19 which led to lockdowns including shutting down of various public places like schools. The average has reduced highly since last year since and people are no longer quarantined, despite that, the recently new president ordered for more research/investigation with regard to COVID-19 and measures to prevent it from spreading are still taken. Despite Tanzanian boarders being still open several measures are still undertaken by the government and individuals to protect against the spread of COVID19. Some of these measures include the one’s set by WHO like wearing face masks, social distancing in public places and washing hands or using hand sanitizers.

Given the fact that majority of Tanzanian’s are backward economically and can’t afford means of protections such as hand sanitizers, face masks etc., this people are forced to stay at home as to avoid crowds, hence a lot of people have failed to keep up with their daily jobs. This is especially to rural people who are self-employed hence when they don’t work means no income generated and therefore reduction of expenses reducing general revenues. Some companies also have been forced to deduct  workers’ salaries and also expel some workers as to keep up with the financial flows.

Despite the rate of COVID-19 gradually falling but other countries are still highly affected by the disease which is more likely contributing to affecting Tanzania economy, currently and the future. Some of the major areas directly linked with the economy have shown this impacts.

In Public financing/ Government.

The government is facing and will continue facing problem in public budgeting and social services delivery to its people, this is because it has increased demand for public expenditure mainly in procuring tools needed due to COVID-19 such as sanitizers, medical equipment’s and so forth. The government revenues are expected to keep failing due to variety in cash flow obtained in direct and indirect taxes, levies and fees. As it is known with COVID-19 most of companies decreased workers and also most of workers payments were declined also others were forced to stop working naturally due to factors within.

In tourism sector; 

One of the major sources of the government income in Tanzania is through tourism. Which has far more tattered, very few tourists are coming to the country due to restrictions set in countries hence the demand has quite declined. The government has reckoned that this year probably only few tourists will come to Tanzania for the holidays which is about a quarter of the normal rate. Places like Zanzibar has been so much affected since most of their economy depend on tourism. The chain that links from the places that tourist visited and stayed like hotels to the people working there and the suppliers of products or services their jobs have frozen due lack of tourist.  



Tanzania mostly depends on exported products and very few are made within. Trade global chains are disrupted, and some factories have been shut down, most of products are running out hence sellers lack products to sell and money circulation has been declining. Most of the country boundaries have been closed not allowing products to go out or come in for some time. This has also led to rise of prices of some products causing some people not to afford them which leaves these products unsold especially those that are not basic needs or that are luxurious products. Export and import of products has been generally affected due to shutdown of some factories which has highly affected the economy.

In banks and financial institutions;

This are among major helpers of the economy that have been highly affected due to COVID-19,  there has been reduction of bank deposits given all factors generated that has causes slow generation of income, Foreign financial flows have fallen due to no transactions of money from other countries due to the lockdown hence lack of foreign currency within, also there has been deterioration between the customers and bank relationships since it has been hard  to establish a common ground due to operational challenges from both sides.


As for Tanzania as long as COVID 19 continues to exist despite it being within the country or outside its impact on the economy will always be valid and continue to affect the major sectors of the economy, which will keep causing decline of general income gained by individuals and the government at large. Such hard times require hard decisions on best measure as to what should be undertaken as to try and maintain the economy to avoid great depression.

Already some measures have been taken as to help overcome the economic problems generated due to COVID-19 for example in banks and financial institutions follows the Bank of Tanzania policies measures, this is by issuing relief packages towards their customers especially the small and medium enterprises which include payment holidays ranging from 3-6 months and restricting of loans to extend repayment periods.