Authorities in several countries – from Bangladesh and Indonesia to Australia and Israel – are rushing to contain the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus, while Russia’s St. Petersburg has announced a record death toll. highlighting the challenges faced by the nations of the world in their efforts to return to pre-pandemic life.
While vaccination campaigns have brought infections to the richest nations, the rise of the Delta variant has fueled fears of new waves of a virus that has already killed nearly four million people.
“There is currently a lot of concern about the Delta variant,” the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said at a briefing on Friday.
“Delta is the most transmissible of the variants identified to date, it has been identified in at least 85 countries and is spreading rapidly among unvaccinated populations.”
In Bangladesh, authorities have announced that they will impose a new national lock on Monday on the variant, with offices closed for a week and only medical-permitted transport allowed.
Meanwhile, Sydney’s largest Australian city, went into a two-week lockdown, with people ordered to stay at home except for essential trips.
Sydney’s new restrictions apply to about five million people, with hundreds of thousands more living in nearby cities.
New Zealand, citing “several outbreaks” in Australia, has announced a three-day suspension of its quarantine-free travel agreement with its larger neighbor.
Australia’s COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the suspension would give officials time to consider measures “to make the bubble safer, such as pre-departure tests for all flights” between the two countries.
In Indonesia, President Joko Widodo said the country of 270 million people was facing a “extraordinary situation“And it is committed to responding with‘ fast and appropriate policies. ’” The country recorded more than 21,000 new infections on Saturday, the highest daily rate ever.
Delta, which was first identified in India in April, is so contagious that experts say more than 80 percent of the population should be inoculated to contain it – a challenging goal even for nations with vaccination programs. significant. The variant is now responsible for more than 90 per cent of all new infections in the UK and 20 per cent in the US.
European scientists estimate that Delta is 40 to 60 percent more contagious than the Alpha variant (B.1.1.7), first discovered in the UK, which itself was more infectious than the original virus first detected. back at the end of 2019.
Experts say that Delta spreads more easily because of mutations that help it attach to cells in the body. While several studies have shown that vaccines are a little less effective against Delta, they still are highly effective – but only after the second dose.
Israel, which has one of the most successful vaccination campaigns in the world, has seen infections linked to the variant that has been growing since it abandoned the requirement to wear masks in public places closed 10 days ago.
After four days of more than 100 new cases a day, the health ministry has now overturned this decision.
Situation in Europe
Meanwhile, St. Petersburg, Russia, host of Euro 2020, said Saturday the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in the country for a city since the beginning of the pandemic.
Official figures say St. Petersburg, which has already hosted six games of the football tournament and is due to host a quarter-final next Friday, has recorded 107 deaths from viruses over the past 24 hours.
Russian city authorities added anti-coronavirus restrictions last week in an effort to curb the peak of new infections, including the closure of food courts in the city’s shopping centers and its Euro fan zone. 2020. This came when Russia saw an explosion of nine homes by mid-June, led by the Delta variant.
In neighboring Finland, health officials said they had detected a spike in coronavirus infections that had been traced by football fans returning from St. Petersburg. The director of the Finnish health institute, Mika Salminen, told public broadcaster YLE that more than 120 cases have been identified so far by passengers returning from the Russian city, mostly football fans, and the number has to grow.
Paul Brennan of Al Jazeera, reported from London, said there were concerns about a link between the tournament and the COVID-19 outbreaks.
“Attendance at these stages has been pre-arranged for you to actually show a negative coronavirus test. But that doesn’t stop people from mingling on the street and mingling with other members of the public who won’t have to go through these tests, ”he said.
Elsewhere, the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that infections are also rising at an alarming rate in at least 12 countries in Africa, with the Delta variant leading to unprecedented hospitals.
According to the WHO, only one percent of Africans are vaccinated at all – the lowest rate in the world.
In South Africa, the continent’s hardest-hit country, scientists said Saturday that the Delta variant appears to be dominating new infections. On Friday, authorities searched 18,000 new cases.
The incumbent Minister of Health, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, told the same press conference that it was now likely that the peak of the third wave would exceed the peak of the second wave of January.
In Europe, however, some countries announced the lifting of restrictions even when scientists warned that Delta was expected to count. 90 percent of all new cases in the European Union at the end of August.
On Saturday, Spain brought the end of the mandatory wearing of masks to the open air, a year after the first introduction of the rule.
The decision came despite the announcement of a large coronavirus cluster in the capital, Madrid, traced by a student trip to the holiday island of Mallorca, with more than 2,000 people ordered to isolate themselves.
The Netherlands has also ended its rules on the use of outdoor masks, while easing restrictions on indoor restaurants and reopening nightclubs to people who have tested negative.
And Switzerland ruled out most of the remaining coronavirus restrictions Saturday after Health Minister Alain Berset said this week that the use of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines in the country has provided adequate protection. against the Delta variant.