LONDON — Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. has been keeping a close eye on the U.K.

From its initial response to Covid-19 (questioned by many), to its much-praised immunization program and world-class research, all have helped inform how the U.S. — which faced its first major Covid outbreak after Britain — has reacted.

Indeed, the U.K.’s experience of Covid-19 has often been a harbinger of things to come for other countries., including the U.S. It has proved particularly true when it comes to Covid variants which have hit the U.K. and then gone on to dominate globally.
This was first seen with the alpha variant that emerged in southeast England late last year and went on to become dominant across the world. A similar thing then happened with the delta variant that originated in India, but was identified in the U.K. at a relatively early stage.

Both strains have proved to be far more transmissible than the original coronavirus that first emerged in China in late 2019. The World Health Organization now predicts that the delta variant — which has already spread to more than 80 countries — will become the dominant strain of the disease worldwide.

Given the U.K.’s experience of both strains at an earlier stage than many other countries, it is now being seen as something of a “test case” for what could happen in the U.S.

Delta ‘greatest threat’ to U.S.

The first thing to note is how quickly the delta variant spread across the U.K.

In a relatively short amount of time, the strain supplanted the alpha variant to become dominant in the country (in mid-June delta was responsible for 90% of all infections, a government study showed) — and this happened despite the U.K.’s advanced vaccination rate.

Meanwhile, cases attributed to the delta strain now make up around 20% of newly diagnosed cases in the U.S. according to White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Fauci warned last week that the delta variant is set to become the dominant Covid strain in the country in a matter of weeks, citing the U.K. as precedent. “It just exploded in the U.K. It went from a minor variant to now more than 90% of the isolates in the U.K.,” Fauci said on NBC’s “TODAY” show.

He said the variant has a doubling time of about two weeks…


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