MILAN (Reuters) -The highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus has gained dominance in Italy, the National Health Institute (ISS) said on Friday, releasing data showing it accounted for 94.8% of cases as of July 20.
The variant, first identified in India in December 2020, is now dominant worldwide and has led to a spike in infection rates that has stoked concerns over the global economic recovery.
In the previous survey based on data from June 22, the Delta variant represented just 22.7% of cases. By contrast, the Alpha variant accounted for 3.2% of cases as of July 20 against a previous prevalence of 57.8%.
"It is essential to continue the systematic tracking of cases and to complete the vaccination cycle as quickly as possible", ISS President Silvio Brusaferro said in a statement.
The ISS said its survey did not include all variant cases but only those detected on the day it was carried out. It added that the Gamma variant, first identified in Brazil, fell to 1.4% of cases from 11.8% in the past survey.
The institute also pointed out an "extremely small increase" in cases of the Beta variant, first identified in South Africa, which it says is characterised by partial immune evasion.
Italy has registered 128,029 deaths linked to COVID-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the eighth-highest in the world. It has reported 4.34 million cases to date.
Almost 59% of Italians over 12 years were fully vaccinated as of Friday, while about 10% are awaiting their second dose.
(Reporting by Emilio Parodi;Editing by Joe Bavier)