It is a natural process for viruses to change or mutate. The COVID-19 virus has changed over time as it adapts to humans. This has led to new variants of the virus, including the Delta variant.

Different variants of COVID-19 may affect how fast the virus spreads, or how sick people get from the virus.
The Delta variant has spread rapidly worldwide and is now the main variant in many countries. It is the most transmissible variant, spreading a lot more easily than the original version of the COVID-19 virus and other variants.

Delta is different because people with Delta infections:

  • can develop more serious COVID-19 illness compared to other variants of the virus
  • are at higher risk of needing hospitalisation
  • seem to carry much more virus (have a higher viral load) and carry it for a longer period compared to other variants
  • may have no symptoms (be asymptomatic) when infectious
  • have a much higher chance of infecting others – it is estimated that on average, one person infected with Delta may infect 5 or 6 other people
  • can have a shorter time from exposure to the virus until first symptoms show.

How we can protect ourselves

Detecting cases early, contact tracing, and isolating cases and their contacts are essential to stopping the spread of all COVID-19 variants.

We can stamp out any community outbreaks as quickly as possible by:

  • Following the Alert Level rules.
  • Wearing face coverings when the Alert Level rules require you to.
  • Keeping a physical distance of 2m where possible.
  • Staying home if you have COVID-19 symptoms and calling Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice about getting tested.
  • Keeping track of where you have been by using the NZ COVID Tracer app to scan QR codes, or by keeping detailed notes.
  • Enabling Bluetooth tracing in the NZ COVID Tracer app.

Vaccination and Delta

Being fully vaccinated gives you a high degree of protection against Delta infection, and an even higher degree of protection against severe illness, hospitalisation and death.

Evidence currently shows two doses of the Pfizer vaccine is about 88% effective against illness due to Delta infection. The protection against hospitalisation due to Delta infection is about 96%.

The COVID-19 vaccine is free, voluntary and available to everyone in New Zealand aged 12 and over. It doesn’t matter what your visa or citizenship status is.

Visit Book My Vaccine, or call the COVID Vaccination Healthline on 0800 28 29 26 to make a booking.  All calls are free, and the team are available from 8am to 8pm, 7 days a week. You can ask for an interpreter if you need one.

No vaccine is 100% effective, so there is still some chance that a vaccinated person may become infected with the Delta variant and transmit the virus to other people. Therefore we need to use all available measures, as well as vaccination, to protect ourselves and our communities from getting sick.