The WHO has issued a warning on the increased transmissibility linked to the COVID-19 Delta variant is likely to significantly increase cases and put greater pressure on healthcare systems, particularly in the contexts of low vaccine coverage.
The World Health Organisation released a COVID-19 Weekly Epidemiological Update and that an overall rise in COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant is reported across all WHO regions. At least 111 countries territories and areas have reported detection of the Delta variant as of July 13, this is expected to continue to increase becoming the dominant variant globally in the coming months.
“The increased transmissibility associated with the Delta variant is likely to result in substantial increases in case incidence and greater pressure on healthcare systems, particularly in contexts of low vaccine coverage,” it said.
In 178 countries, territories or areas the cases of the Alpha variant have been reported, while the cases of Beta variant have been reported in 123 countries, and 75 countries reported cases of the Gamma variant. The update said that the Delta variant has shown higher transmissibility than other Variants of Concerns (VOCs) identified to date.
“The increased transmissibility means that it is likely to become the dominant variant globally over the coming months,” the update said.
The emergence of more transmissible variants attached with the relaxation and inappropriate use of Public Health and Social Measures (PHSM) and increased social mobility and mixing and low vaccination coverage in many countries continue to contribute to rapid spikes in incidence, hospitalisations, and deaths in many countries.
“Moreover, in large parts of the world, there remain gaps in epidemiological surveillance, testing and genomic sequencing, and this limits our ability to monitor and assess the impact of current and future variants in a timely manner,” it said.
The update underlined that as countries gradually resume non-essential international travel, the introduction of risk mitigation measures aiming to “reduce travel-associated exportation, importation and onward transmission of SARS-CoV-2 should be based on thorough risk assessments conducted systematically and routinely.”
Over three billion doses of vaccines have been administered across the world that is almost a quarter (24.7 per cent) of the world’s population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. However, there are huge inequities in vaccine distribution and administration with the majority of vaccines administered in a small number of high and upper-middle-income countries.
To reduce this gap the update of the COVAX facility has been working towards it but a large proportion of the world’s population remains susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection.
“The breadth and quality of evidence of the efficacy and effectiveness of current vaccines against emerging variants remains limited; nevertheless, the available evidence suggests full vaccination offers high levels of protection against severe disease and death for all four VOCs, with mixed evidence as to the impacts on infection, mild-moderate disease and transmission.”
“Virus evolution and the phenotypic impacts of all variants, including potential immune escape, require close monitoring and assessment, including the possible need for future adjustments to vaccine composition, vaccination strategies and/or coverage targets,” it said.
The global number of new cases reported last week (July 5-11, 2021) was nearly 3 million, a 10 per cent increase as compared to the previous week. Following a steady decline for nine consecutive weeks, the number of weekly deaths increased by 3 per cent this week compared to the previous week, with over 55,000 deaths reported, the update said.
Globally, COVID-19 incidence increased with an average of over 4,00,000 cases reported each day as compared to 3,70,000 from the previous week.