‘Act before virus mutates again’


Geneva: The Delta variant of Covid-19 is a warning to the world to suppress the virus quickly before it mutates again into something even worse, the World Health Organisation said.

According to WHO, the highly transmissible variant, first detected in India, has now surfaced in 132 countries and territories.

“Delta is a warning: it’s a warning that the virus is evolving but it is also a call to action that we need to move now before more dangerous variants emerge,” WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan told a press conference.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus added: “So far, four variants of concern have emerged, and there will be more as long as the virus continues to spread.”

On average, infections increased by 80% over the past four weeks in five of the six WHO regions, Tedros said.

Though Delta has shaken many countries, Ryan said proven measures still worked, notably physical distancing, wearing masks, hand hygiene and avoiding long periods in poorly ventilated, busy places.

“They are stopping the Delta strain, especially when you add in vaccination,” he said.

“The virus has gotten fitter, the virus has got faster. The game plan still works, but we need to implement and execute it much more efficiently and much more effectively then we’ve ever done before.”

The Delta variant is not specifically targeting children, the WHO added. Its Covid-19 technical lead Maria Van Kerkhove said evidence showed it was rather being passed among those who were socially mixing.

“Let me be very clear: we are not seeing the Delta variant specifically target children,” the US expert said.

The UN health agency said work was underway to gain more understanding of the dynamics of Delta and why it is more transmissible.

“There was some suggestion that the variants were specifically targeting children, but that is not the case. What we are seeing is they will target those who are socially mixing,” Van Kerkhove said.

“What we do see is that the variants that are circulating will infect people if they are not taking the proper precautions,” she said, referring to measures such as physical distancing and avoiding gathering in poorly-ventilated, crowded indoor spaces.

WHO has consistently called for vaccines to be distributed evenly around the world and has branded the drastic imbalance a “moral outrage”.

If the four billion doses had been administered equally to people aged over 60, “we basically could have gotten two doses into everybody at highest risk of severe consequences when we got to a strain like Delta”, said Bruce Aylward, the WHO’s frontman on the Covax scheme which aims to get donor-funded jabs to poorer countries. — AFP

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