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Spreading of the Delta Variant and WHO Guidance on Masks

WHO Guidance on Masks

Officials from the World Health Organization (WHO), stressed on Friday that fully vaccinated individuals must "continue to remain appropriately cautious" and adhere to social distancing measures as well as masking. The highly infectious Delta virus of the coronavirus is becoming more prevalent in the U.S., prompting new Covid-19 surges all over the globe, even in countries with high vaccination rates.

Important Facts

The Delta variant was first discovered in India. It is more infective than other coronavirus strains and accounts for about 10% of all coronavirus infections in the United States as of June 5.

People should be more vigilant, diligent and dedicated to following the protocols due to the spread of the variant, Dr. Michael Ryan, executive Director of the WHO's World Emergencies Programme said Friday at a press conference. Ryan stated that the Delta strain should lead people to follow public health precautions like frequent sanitizing, mask wearing and social distancing.

Dr. Mariangela Simao, WHO assistant Director-General for Access to Medicines and Health Products, stated that "using masks consistently" and following social distancing measures such as avoiding crowds and hand washing is important. However, she warned, noting, "Vaccine alone will not stop the community transmission."

Crucial Background

Covid-19 vaccines have been shown to be protective against the Delta variant. Recent studies show that the Pfizer vaccine is about 90% effective against this strain. Public Health England stated that only one dose of the vaccine is effective against the Delta variant. However, it's possible to develop breakthrough infections if the vaccine is used in conjunction with other vaccines. There are fears that the virus could continue to evolve and evade vaccines due to the fact that there are many people still unvaccinated. Van Kerkhove stated Friday that while vaccines, mask wearing, and social distancing have been shown to be effective against Covid-19 at the moment, there may come a time when these countermeasures won't work.

What to Observe

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have not responded to a request for comment regarding Friday's WHO warning and whether they will reconsider their guidance that fully vaccinated Americans should not wear masks due to the spread of the Delta variant. Right now, the prevalence of the Delta strain in the United States is estimated to increase by approximately two per cent every two weeks. It is likely to eventually become the dominant strain in the country. Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that the variant is the "greatest threat" for the U.S. effort to eradicate Covid-19. 

Interesting Fact

The biggest Covid-19 increases in recent months have been in countries with high vaccination rates, such as Uruguay, Bahrain and the Maldives. This trend can partly be attributed to countries loosening their restrictions too quickly. Israel is the latest country with a high vaccination rate to experience a surge in cases. This is due to a rise in cases of the Delta variant. About half the country's new infections are in those who have been fully vaccinated with BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine.