The World Health Organization (WHO) is urging all fully vaccinated individuals to continue wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and continue to implement COVID-19 safety measures as cases of the highly contagious delta variant continue to spread across the world.
The variant, also known as B1617.2, was first reported in India in December of 2020 and has now spread to over 92 countries including the United States.
In places like the U.K., the delta variant has become more prominent than the alpha U.K. variant (B.1.1.7) that was identified late in 2020.
“People cannot feel safe just because they had the two doses. They still need to protect themselves,” Dr. Mariangela Simao, assistant director-general for access to medicines and health products at the WHO, said during a news briefing from the agency’s Geneva headquarters.
Simao added, “Vaccines alone won’t stop community transmission. People need to continue to use masks consistently, be in ventilated spaces, hand hygiene […] the physical distance, avoid crowding. This still continues to be extremely important, even if you’re vaccinated when you have a community transmission ongoing.”
The statement by WHO comes as the United States joins a growing number of countries that have largely done away with mask mandates. In recent weeks, the average number of new infections of Covid-19 reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has remained steady at roughly 11,700 cases per day.
“greatest threat to eliminating Covid-19,”
What Is The Delta Variant, and How Dangerous Is It?
Described by the chief medical advisor to president Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci, as the “greatest threat to eliminating Covid-19,” the delta variant has proved to be a major threat for many countries around the world.
Scientists have estimated that the delta variant could be anywhere from 43% to 90% more transmissible than the alpha variant, with a recent study conducted by Public Health England suggesting it to be closer to 60%.
Researchers are still uncertain as to why the delta variant is more transmissible than other variants like the U.K. or South African that have cropped up in the past. What is especially worrisome is the variant’s apparent ability to infect vaccinated individuals.
An article published on June 25, 2021, in the Wall Street Journal found that nearly half of all adults in Israel who had been infected with the delta variant in a recent outbreak had been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
At the hearing in their headquarters of Geneva, Switzerland, Dr. Bruce Aylward, senior advisor to the WHO’s director-general, spoke out on the possibility of re-infection for vaccinated individuals. “Yes, you can reduce some measures and different countries have different recommendations in that regard. But there’s still the need for caution. As we are seeing, there are new variants emerging.”
Officials at the WHO say that the delta variant is quickly becoming the most prominent variant across the globe.
For now, WHO officials recommended that fully vaccinated people continue to “play it safe”, as there remains a large portion of the world that has not been vaccinated. They, alongside the CDC, continue to urge all unvaccinated people that have access to do so to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
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