Delta variant most transmissible: WHO

A healthcare worker takes a swab sample in Ahmedabad. File

A healthcare worker takes a swab sample in Ahmedabad. File

The Delta variant of COVID-19, identified in at least 85 countries, is the “most transmissible” of the variants identified so far and is spreading rapidly among unvaccinated populations, World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned.

“I know that globally there is currently a lot of concern about the Delta variant, and the WHO is concerned about it, too,” Director-General Ghebreyesus said at a WHO press briefing on Friday.

The Delta variant was first identified in India.

“Delta is the most transmissible of the variants identified so far, has been identified in at least 85 countries, and is spreading rapidly among unvaccinated populations,” he said in Geneva.

He noted with concern that as some countries ease public health and social measures, “We are starting to see increases in transmission around the world.”

“More cases means more hospitalisations, further stretching health workers and health systems, which increases the risk of death,” he said.

While pointing out that new COVID-19 variants are expected and will continue to be reported, “that’s what viruses do, they evolve — but we can prevent the emergence of variants by preventing transmission.”

In a strong warning, Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 Technical Lead at the WHO, said the Delta variant is a “dangerous” virus and is more transmissible than the Alpha variant, which was itself extremely transmissible across Europe and any country that it entered.

“The Delta variant is even more transmissible,” she said, adding that the WHO is seeing trajectories of incidents that are almost “vertical” in a number of countries around the world.

Many European countries are witnessing a decline in cases but there are a lot of events happening across the region, including large sporting or religious events “or even backyard barbecues”. “All of these actions have consequences and the Delta variant is spreading readily among people who are unvaccinated,” Dr. Van Kerkhove said.

She underlined that COVID-19 vaccines are “incredibly effective” at preventing severe disease and death, including against the Delta variant.

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Printable version | May 20, 2022 6:15:10 am |