Hard-won gains fighting coronavirus at risk as Delta variant spreads, says WHO

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The world is at risk of losing hard-won gains in fighting COVID-19, as the highly transmissible Delta variant spreads, but WHO-approved vaccines remain effective against the disease, the World Health Organization said on Friday.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has described the Delta variant of the coronavirus as being as transmissible as chickenpox and cautioned it could cause severe disease, the Washington Post said, citing an internal CDC document.

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COVID-19 infections have increased by 80 percent over the past four weeks in most regions of the world, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

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Deaths in Africa -- where only 1.5 percent of the population is vaccinated -- rose by 80 percent over the same period.

“Hard-won gains are in jeopardy or being lost, and health systems in many countries are being overwhelmed,” Tedros told a news conference.

The Delta variant has been detected in 132 countries, becoming the dominant global strain, according to the WHO.

“The vaccines that are currently approved by the WHO all provide significant protection against severe disease and hospitalization from all the variants, including the Delta variant,” said WHO’s top emergency expert Mike Ryan.

“We are fighting the same virus but a virus that has become faster and better adapted to transmitting amongst us humans, that’s the change,” he said.

Maria van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead on COVID-19, said that the Delta variant is about 50 percent more transmissible than ancestral strains of SARS-CoV-2, that first emerged in China in late 2019.

A few countries have reported increased hospitalization rates but higher rates of mortality have not been recorded from the Delta variant, she said.

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