The World Health Organization has said that the Delta variant of the coronavirus is expected to become the dominant strain of the infection in the coming months.

“Given the increase in transmissibility, the Delta variant is expected to rapidly outcompete other variants and become the dominant variant over the coming months,” the health body said in its Covid-19 weekly epidemiological update released on June 29.

The WHO noted that the Delta variant, which was first detected in India, is 55% more transmissible than the Alpha strain, first reported in the United Kingdom.

As of June 29, the Delta variant has been reported in 96 countries, the WHO said, adding that it was an underestimate as genome sequencing capacities needed to identify variants are limited.

Spread of different variants of coronavirus across the world (Source: World Health Organization)

The WHO, however, said that the infection prevention and control measures that have been used since the beginning of the pandemic remain effective against the existing variants of concern, including the Delta variant.

“The increased transmissibility of variants of concern means that measures may need to be maintained for longer periods of time, particularly in a context of low vaccination coverage, these measures must be targeted, time-bound, reinforced and supported by member states,” the WHO said.

On May 10, the WHO had classified the Delta strain as a “variant of concern,” which also includes mutations first detected in Britain, Brazil and South Africa. Last month, the health body’s Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan had flagged concerns over the variant becoming globally dominant. The strain was responsible for the devastating second wave of the pandemic in India, a government study showed earlier in June.

The variant has led to a surge in cases in the United Kingdom too, accounting for the majority of the new infections. The country’s health body Public Health England has found the strain to be 60% more transmissible in households than the Alpha variant. On June 23, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said that the Delta variant could contribute to 90% of new cases in the European Union in the upcoming months.

The strain has prompted multiple countries to reimpose restrictions to tackle the spread of infection