World Health Organization (WHO) Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned that the Delta variant of COVID-19 is the "most transmissible" of all variants identified so far. It is spreading very quickly among unvaccinated populations. The delta variant, which was identified first in India, has been reported in at least 85 countries.
At a WHO press briefing on Friday, Director-General Ghebreyesus said, "I know that globally there is currently a lot of concern about the Delta variant, and the WHO is concerned about it too."
He also noted that an increase in transmission of the delta variant has been seen worldwide after some countries eased public health and social measures. He further warned that if cases increase, more people would be required to be hospitalized, which would further stretch the healthcare system, and that can cause an increase in death.
The WHO chief also pointed out that new variants are expected to come because viruses evolve. But the emergence of new variants can be prevented by preventing transmission of the existing variants.
More dangerous than Alpha variant
Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO's COVID-19 Technical Lead, warned that the Delta variant is a "dangerous" virus and is more infectious than the Alpha variant, which was highly contagious across Europe and other countries. She also noted that WHO is witnessing a sharp rise in cases in many countries around the world. Although COVID cases have reduced in many European countries, several sporting and religious events are happening in the region.
"All of these actions have consequences, and the Delta variant is spreading readily among people who are unvaccinated," Kerkhove said as reported by The Indian Express.
Countermeasures may fail at some point
While Kerkhove underlined that the COVID vaccines are "incredibly effective" at preventing severe disease and death, even from the Delta variant, she also said that the virus might evolve, and the countermeasures may not work in future. "So we need some kind of movement to pull ourselves together to drive transmission down and keep it down," she said.
WHO Chief Ghebreyesus said it is urgent to use all means at our disposal to prevent transmission, like consistent use of public health and social measures besides equitable vaccination. He also highlighted the importance of the equitable distribution of vaccines to protect public health workers and the society that is most vulnerable to the virus.
According to WHO's COVID-19 Weekly Epidemiological Update released on June 22, the Alpha variant has been detected in 170 countries, Beta in 119 countries, Gamma in 71 countries and Delta in 85 countries, so far. 11 of the 85 countries reported Delta variant in the last two weeks.