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Lockdown in Australia, Surge in Indonesia & US: How Delta Variant is Thwarting Global Fight Against Covid

People wearing protective face masks sit before receiving the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine during the mass vaccination program. (Reuters)

People wearing protective face masks sit before receiving the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine during the mass vaccination program. (Reuters)

Europe's drug regulator said the Delta variant of the coronavirus will account for 90% of strains in circulation in the European Union by the end of August.

Delta variant, which is highly transmissible version of the coronavirus first detected in India, continues to hamper efforts against Covid-19 as several countries including Indonesia have seen a fresh spike in cases. Other countries like Australia have extended restrictions as the variant continues to spread. Top U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci has said that the Delta variant has been detected around 100 countries globally and is now the dominant variant worldwide.

Europe’s drug regulator said the Delta variant of the coronavirus will account for 90% of strains in circulation in the European Union by the end of August, with both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine needed to protect against the fast-spreading variant.

Here is a list of countries that is reeling under the highly transmissible version of the coronavirus and their measures at tackling the crisis:

Indonesia

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Deaths of doctors from COVID-19 in Indonesia rose sharply in the first half of July, according to the profession’s association, as the Delta variant of the coronavirus fuelled a surge in infections across the country.

A total of 114 doctors died during July 1-17, the highest number reported for any period of similar length and more than 20% of the 545 total doctor deaths from COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, officials from Indonesia’s doctors association (IDI) said during a virtual news conference.

According to a report in The Washington Post, the delta variant is behind the spike causing increasing hospitalisation and depleting Oxygen supplies. The report said that the highly transmissible version of the coronavirus is fueling a wave of suffering across the region, including in Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia, where vaccine rollouts lag behind most developed nations.

US

US cases of COVID-19 are up 70% over the previous week and deaths are up 26%, with outbreaks occurring in parts of the country with low vaccination rates, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said during a press briefing.

The seven-day-average number of daily cases is now more than 26,000, more than twice its June low of around 11,000 cases, according to CDC data. Walensky said an increasing number of counties around the United States now exhibit a high risk of COVID-19 transmission, reversing significant declines in transmission risk in recent months.

Delta variant has been detected around 100 countries globally and is now the dominant variant worldwide, top U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said. “We are dealing with a formidable variant" of COVID-19, Fauci said during the call.

India

In India the Delta variant was “primarily responsible” for the second wave of Covid-19 in India that was responsible for record high cases and fatalities.

10 districts in Maharashtra, which was the epicentre of the variant in the country, continues to report high positivity rate. Authorities are mulling to impose complete lockdown in two of these districts- Kolhapur and Sangli.

Similarly, several states in the northeast India have been forced to either announce fresh lockdown or other stricter measures to control the situation, possibly due to the Delta Variant.

Australia

Nearly half of Australia’s 25 million people are living under lockdowns imposed to quell an outbreak fuelled by the highly transmissable Delta variant, which has become the worst this year.

Australian authorities said Victoria state would extend a COVID-19 lockdown beyond Tuesday to slow the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant, despite a slight drop in new infections in the state and nationwide.

Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said lockdown rules would not be lifted as cases were still being detected in the community, promising more details would be provided on Tuesday, when the lockdown had been due to end. Victoria, the country’s second most populous state, on Monday reported 13 locally acquired cases, down from 16 a day earlier. All new local cases are linked.

Sydney, the country’s largest city and the state capital of New South Wales, is set to end a five-week lockdown on July 30, though the end-date has been pushed back twice already.

Brazil

Health officials in Brazil’s capital said they are concerned about the Delta variant of the coronavirus, which has now also been detected in Rio, but are optimistic they can stave off the worst effects by vaccinating residents as quickly as possible.

Officials say they have vaccinated 68% of the population with at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccines, using Pfizer, Astrazeneca and Coronavac vaccines, which they say have shown efficacy against the highly contagious Delta Variant.

Epidemiologists are hopeful rising vaccination rates will blunt the effect of the Delta variant, if not stop it from spreading altogether.

Israel

Israel is planning tougher health restrictions to combat rising cases as the Delta variant is spreading rapidly. According to the plan, which is yet to get approval from parliament, only those vaccinated or those recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed to take part in indoor events or more than 100 people.

Though cases were dropping in Isreal, the Delta variant barelled through the nation leading to record surge in daily infections.

Sri Lanka

The highly transmissible Delta variant of coronavirus is spreading rapidly across Sri Lanka and comprise around 30 per cent of the new cases reported in Colombo, the health authorities said on Monday, advising the government to stop relaxing travel restrictions. Deputy Director-General of health services Dr Hemantha Herath told reporters that the Delta variant, first reported in India, has also spread to the southern districts of Galle, and Matara, as well as to the northern districts of Jaffna and Kilinochchi.

We have noticed that between 25-30 per cent of new cases reported from Colombo are of the Delta variant, Herath said. The health officials said that about 35 cases of the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, have been found in Sri Lanka so far.

The first detected five cases of the Delta variant came from Colombo on June 17. The public health inspectors have advised the government against further relaxing travel restrictions.

UK

UK health officials said the Delta variant continues its rise in the UK with a further 36,800 cases logged on Friday, which marks a 17 per cent increase over the previous week. Public Health England (PHE) said that while the infections continue to be high and rising, there has not been a corresponding rise in the number of hospitalisations with COVID-19, indicating that the vaccinations are effective against the highly transmissible variant first identified in India.

Of the 36,800 cases of Delta B1.617.2 variant over the past week, 45 are from the Delta AY.1 sub lineage with the mutation K417N, which is feared to be more vaccine resistant a proportion that has remained consistent over the past few weeks. Case rates are still high and rising, but it is encouraging that the increase in cases still does not appear to be associated with a similar increase in hospitalisations and deaths.

Spain

Barcelona and the surrounding northeast corner of Spain is shutting down once again to stem an unchecked wave of the delta variant of the coronavirus that is running wild among the unvaccinated young.

Regional authorities on Thursday were waiting for a judge to give the legal go-ahead for their request to restore a nightly curfew. The more infectious delta strain is pushing infections back up in many countries, even in Europe where vaccination efforts are going well and the public healthcare systems are robust.

But Catalonia doubles the Spanish average and is among the most hard-hit areas in Europe with over 1,000 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over 14 days. Only Cyprus is worse off in Europe, according to the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Turkey

Last week, Delta variant cases found in Turkey have more than doubled in one week, increasing to around 750 from 284 reported the previous week. In comments carried by the state-run Anadolu Agency on Tuesday, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca also reported a 20% increase in Covid-19 cases over the weekend from the previous.

The minister urged more people to get vaccinated, saying most of the increases were reported in areas where vaccination levels remain low. The delta variant first detected in India is now present in 36 of Turkey’s 81 provinces, the minister says. The country of 84 million has so far administered 58.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses. Around 28% of the adult population has been fully vaccinated and 61% has received one dose, according to the Health Ministry.

Philippines

The Philippines will ban travellers coming from Indonesia to prevent the spread of the highly contagious Delta COVID-19 variant, the presidential spokesperson said on Wednesday. The ban will apply to everyone coming from Indonesia or those with recent travel history to the country and will be imposed from July 16 to 31, Harry Roque said in a statement.

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first published:July 20, 2021, 12:09 IST