Pandemic isn't slowing down: WHO

Soumya Swaminathan

Soumya Swaminathan


Raises concern over Delta variant

New Delhi: World Health Organization's Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan has said that the Covid-19 pandemic has not been "slowing down", citing data on new infections and fatalities in a span of 24 hours.

"In the last 24 hours, close to 5,00,000 new Covid cases have been reported and about 9,300 deaths – now that is not a pandemic that is slowing down," Swaminathan said in an interview. "What we are seeing a diverging pandemic...there are parts of the world where vaccination coverage has reached a point where there is a slowdown of severe cases and people being ill enough to be hospitalised..."

However, Swaminathan said that cases have been rising in five of six WHO regions – Africa, the Americas, South-East Asia, Europe, Eastern Mediterranean and Western Pacific. She also said that mortality rates in Africa have jumped by 30% to 40% in two weeks.

The scientist listed the fast-spreading Delta variant, easing of lockdown restrictions, relaxation of safety mandates such as wearing of masks and physical distancing norms and the slow pace of vaccinations as the primary reasons for the continuing spread of the coronavirus.

Swaminathan's remarks came on a day when the World Health Organization's Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus too sounded a note of caution over the new strains of the coronavirus. "I am worried about the emergence of a potent Covid-19 virus variant, like Delta," he said. "Unless we increase vaccine access to those who need them first and need them now, we are collectively at high risk of losing the gains we have made. Speed is very important."

The World Health Organization had designated Delta as a variant of concern on May 11 and predicted that it will rapidly become the dominant strain across the world. In June, Swaminathan had said the Delta variant was becoming the dominant variant globally "because of its significantly increased transmissibility".

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