In South Africa the more transmissible Delta variant has led to a surging third wave whose peak is expected to exceed earlier ones. With the average number of daily new infections more than doubling and Covid deaths increasing by nearly 50%, President Cyril Ramaphosa has said that while the 1st wave lasted 15 weeks and the 2nd lasted 9 weeks, they don’t know how long this one will last but indications are that it could last longer.
In the UK too the Delta variant now accounts for 99% of new Covid cases but here hospitalisation and the death toll have barely increased. The key difference is that the UK has vaccinated more than 80% of the adult population with a first dose and more than 60% with a second one.
With the world now being stalked by several worrying mutations including Delta-plus and Lambda, the UK and South Africa show countries can be affected in two very different ways depending on their vaccination programmes. Low coverage could mean that new variants and waves ravage the healthcare system and the economy with greater fury than previous waves.
In India the most populous state Uttar Pradesh has covered only 2.9% of adults with both doses and 17.7% with the first dose. This is just one indicator of how urgently the country’s vaccination programme needs to pick up pace. And until there is dramatic improvement in coverage, governments and civil society must maintain intense focus on encouraging Covid safe behaviours like masking and physical distancing.
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