As the spread of Delta variants widens, hard-won gains are at risk

© Reuters. File photo: Logo taken at the World Health Organization (WHO) building in Geneva, Switzerland, February 2, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Stephanie Nebehay and Michael Shields

Geneva (Reuters)-The World Health Organization said on Friday that with the spread of the highly-spread Delta variant, the world may lose its hard-earned results in the fight against COVID-19, but the vaccine approved by the WHO is still effective.

The Washington Post quoted internal CDC documents as saying that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has described the Delta variant of the coronavirus as contagious as chickenpox and warned that it may cause serious illness.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that COVID-19 infections in most parts of the world have increased by 80% in the past four weeks. During the same period, the number of deaths in Africa—where only 1.5% of the population was vaccinated—increased by 80%.

Tedros said at the press conference: “The hard-won results are in danger or lost, and the health systems in many countries are overwhelmed.”

According to the World Health Organization, the Delta variant has been found in 132 countries/regions and has become a major strain in the world.

Mike Ryan, WHO’s chief emergency expert, said: “The vaccines currently approved by the WHO provide important protection against serious illness and hospitalization in all variants, including the delta variant.”

He said: “We are fighting the same virus, but this virus has become faster and more suitable for spreading between us humans. This is change.”

Maria van Kerkhove, WHO’s head of COVID-19 technology, said that the Delta variant is by far the easiest to spread, and the transmission rate of the SARS-CoV-2 ancestor strain that first appeared in China at the end of 2019 is about 50% higher.

She said that some countries have reported an increase in hospitalization rates, but that the Delta variant has not recorded a higher mortality rate.

Japan said on Friday that it will extend its emergency to three prefectures near Tokyo, the host city of the Olympics, and the western prefectures of Osaka. The surge in COVID-19 cases in the capital and across the country cast a shadow over the Summer Olympics.

Ryan pointed out that Tokyo has recorded more than 3,000 cases in the past 24 hours, including approximately 10,000 new infections in Japan.

“The Olympics is part of the entire environment, and the risk management surrounding the Olympics is very comprehensive,” he said.

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