World Health Organization’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan on Friday said that the Covid-19 pandemic has not been “slowing down”, citing data on new infections and fatalities in a span of 24 hours, reported Bloomberg TV.
“In the last 24 hours, close to 5,00,000 new [Covid-19] cases have been reported and about 9,300 deaths – now that is not a pandemic that is slowing down,” Swaminathan said in an interview to Bloomberg. “What we are seeing now...is a diverging pandemic...there are parts of the world where vaccination coverage has reached a point where there is a slow down 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 Meditteranean 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”.
Earlier this week, the global health body had urged governments to be cautious while easing restrictions in their countries, according to Bloomberg.
In April, the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had said that fully vaccinated people did not need to wear masks in most indoor settings.
Earlier this month, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that all restrictions would be lifted on July 19, branding it as “Freedom Day.” Responding to the announcement, a group of scientists, doctors and other professionals published a letter in medical journal The Lancet, urging the government to reconsider its current strategy.
Globally, the coronavirus disease has infected over 18.59 crore people and killed over 40.17 lakh since the pandemic broke out in December 2019, according to Johns Hopkins University.