Delta variant to become dominant COVID-19 strain in coming months, says WHO
Nearly 100 countries have reported cases of the Delta variant, while the Alpha variant has been found in 172 countries, Beta in 120 countries and Gamma in 72 countries
Geneva: The World Health Organisation has said the Delta variant of COVID-19 is now present in nearly 100 countries as per conservative estimates, and warned that in the coming months the highly transmissible strain will become the dominant variant of the coronavirus globally.
In its COVID-19 Weekly Epidemiological Update, the WHO said as of 29 June, 2021, "96 countries have reported cases of the Delta variant, though this is likely an underestimate as sequencing capacities needed to identify variants are limited. A number of these countries are attributing surges in infections and hospitalisations to this variant."
Given the increase in transmissibility, the WHO warned that the Delta variant is "expected to rapidly outcompete other variants and become the dominant variant over the coming months."
The world body noted that the tools that exist today to combat the coronavirus — individual, community level-public health and social measures, infection prevention and control measures that have been used since the beginning of the pandemic — remain effective against current variants of concern (VOCs), including the Delta variant.
"Although the increased transmissibility of VOCs (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," it added.
Last week, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the Delta variant is the “most transmissible” of the variants identified so far and is spreading rapidly among unvaccinated populations.
"I know that globally there is currently a lot of concern about the Delta variant, and WHO is concerned about it too. Delta is the most transmissible of the variants identified so far... spreading rapidly among unvaccinated populations," Ghebreyesus had said.
He had noted that as some countries eased public health and social restrictions, there was a corresponding increase in transmission around the world.
As per latest figures, cases of the Alpha variant have been reported in 172 countries, territories or areas, Beta in 120 countries (one new country), Gamma in 72 countries (one new country) and Delta in 96 countries (11 new countries).
For the first time in several weeks, the highest numbers of new COVID-19 cases were not reported from India.
The update noted that at 5,21,298, the highest numbers of new cases were reported from Brazil during the 21-27 June week, followed by India (3,51,218 new cases, a 12 percent increase over the previous week), Colombia (204,132 new cases, 5 percent increase), Russia (1,34,465 new cases, 24 percent increase) and Argentina (1,31,824 new cases, 11 percent decrease).
The South-East Asia Region reported over 5,73,000 new cases and over 13,000 new deaths, a 5 percent and a 33 percent decrease respectively compared to the previous week.
"There is a slight overall decrease in the number of cases reported this week, mostly due to the decrease in the number of cases reported in India," the update said, adding that a number of countries, including Myanmar (112 percent increase), Indonesia (60 percent increase) and Bangladesh (48 percent increase), reported large increases in the number of newly reported cases for this week.
In the region, the highest numbers of new cases were reported from India (3,51,218 new cases; 25.5 new cases per 1,00,000; a 21 percent decrease), Indonesia (1,25,395 new cases; 45.8 new cases per 1,00,000; a 60 percent increase), and Bangladesh (36,738 new cases; 22.3 new cases per 1,00,000; a 48 percent increase).
The highest numbers of new deaths were reported from India (9,038 new deaths; 0.7 new deaths per 1,00,000; a 45 percent decrease over the previous week), Indonesia (2,476 new deaths; 0.9 new deaths per 100,000; a 39 percent increase), and Bangladesh (624 new deaths; 0.4 new deaths per 1,00,000; a 45 percent increase).
"Well into the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global situation remains highly fragile. While at the global level, trends in cases and deaths have been declining in recent weeks, there is significant variation by region, by country and within countries,” the update said.
It said in all WHO regions, there are countries reporting sharp increases in cases and hospitalisations.
There are a number of factors contributing to this, including the emergence and circulation of more transmissible variants of SARS-CoV-2, increased social mixing and mobility, uneven and inequitable vaccination; and considerable pressure to lift public health and social measures, the WHO said.
With lockdowns being eased and people getting back to normal life, there is a lot to worry about the potential third wave that could start soon.
Delta is the most contagious of all variants known. The original Wuhan strain was overtaken by the more contagious D614G strain by March 2020, and that virus was responsible for the Victorian second wave.
Although studies are underway, experts agree vaccines are working well, even against the Delta variant, and that booster shots are not necessary right now