The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday the highly contagious Delta variant of Sars-Cov-2 has been identified in 124 countries and is expected to become the dominant strain worldwide within months. The rapid transmission of the ‘variant of concern’ first detected in India appears to be driven by multiple factors, including relaxation of social distancing measures and inequitable vaccine distribution around the world, the WHO said.
“It is expected that it will rapidly out-compete other variants and become the dominant circulating lineage over the coming months,” the UN health agency said in its weekly epidemiological update.
Of the three other coronavirus variants of concern (VOCs), Alpha, first detected in Britain, has been reported in 180 territories (up six from last week), Beta, first detected in South Africa, in 130 (up seven) and Gamma, first detected in Brazil, in 78 (up three).
According to SARS-CoV-2 sequences submitted to the GISAID global science initiative over the four weeks to July 20, the Delta variant is wreaking havoc across the globe and now accounts for more than 75 per cent of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases in several countries including India, Bangladesh, Australia,
South Africa, Britain, Singapore, Indonesia, Russia, and China among others, as per the report.
The US health officials said on Tuesday that the variant of concern accounts for about 83 per cent of cases in the United States, threatening the gains made through the massive vaccination drive.
“Growing evidence supports the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant as compared to non-VOCs. However, the exact mechanism for the increase in transmissibility remains unclear,” said the WHO.
The Geneva-based organisation said overall, 3.4 million new Covid-19 cases were reported in the week to July 18 — up 12 per cent on the week before.
“At this rate, it is expected that the cumulative number of cases reported globally could exceed 200 million in the next three weeks,” said the WHO.
Over the past week, Indonesia reported the highest number of new Covid-19 cases, followed by Britain, Brazil, India, and the US. Despite a worrying rise in coronavirus cases per capita, the UK has removed virtually all restrictions, prompting experts to warn the country about the impending threat.