Health DG Says COVID-19 Delta Variant Takes Only 15 Seconds To Infect The Next Person

"This means for every 100 people infected, within a short period of incubation, it could infect up to 500 to 800 others."

Cover image via Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia (Facebook) & Reuters/South China Morning Post

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The Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus is highly contagious and is able to infect the next person in as quick as 15 seconds

Health director-general (DG) Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said this has caused the drastic increase in COVID-19 cases in the country since 26 June.

"The infectivity rate, R-naught (R0), for the regular COVID-19 virus is between 2.5 and 3. But the R0 for the Delta variant, and the other variants we've identified, is much higher, which is between 5 and 8," he said in a joint press conference with Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba on Thursday, 15 July.

"This means for every 100 people infected, within a short period of incubation, it could infect up to 500 to 800 others."

He added that the virus has been evolving rapidly as well

"In the past, we said positive cases only happen if someone comes in close contact with an infected person for 15 minutes or are less than 1m apart," he said.

"However, with the new variant, infections can happen within 15 seconds only, and also because it is airborne," he stressed.

The Health DG reiterated the importance of public health practices to curb the spread within the community, such as wearing of face masks, physical distancing, avoiding crowded and confined places, and frequent hand washing.

He added that vaccination is the other way to control the infections and pointed to Labuan as an example, where the infectivity rate was high and the Delta variant was first discovered in Malaysia.

With public health measures in place and the ramping up of vaccinations — 87% of people in the state are currently vaccinated with their first dose — he said the situation was controlled within three weeks.

Dr Noor Hisham's announcement coincides with Australia's recent finding of how easily the Delta variant spreads, which triggered Sydney's lockdown on 26 June

According to ABC News, CCTV footage showed the transfer of the virus after a limousine driver, unknowingly infected with the Delta variant, briefly walked past another man at an indoor mall near Sydney's Bondi Beach.

The brief interaction was enough for the second man to contract COVID-19.

New South Wales premier Gladys Berijiklian said it took just five to 10 seconds and called the encounter "scarily fleeting".

"Literally people not even physically touching each other but fleetingly coming into the same airspace has seen the virus transfer from one person to another," the premier said.

In a report, researchers at the Guangdong Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention have also proposed that the Delta variant has a higher viral replication rate, leading to viral loads about 1,000 times higher than the earliest strains of SARS-CoV-2.

Remember to limit your movement and keep practising physical distancing. Watch the latest update on the COVID-19 situation:

Meanwhile, food and beverage outlets in Sarawak can open for dine-ins starting today, 16 July:

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