The highly contagious Delta variant of Sars-Cov-2 has been identified in 124 countries and is expected to become the dominant strain worldwide within months, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday.
The rapid transmission of the ‘variant of concern’ first detected in India appears to be driven by multiple factors, including relaxation of social distancing measures and inequitable vaccine distribution around the world, the WHO said.
“It is expected that it will rapidly outcompete other variants and become the dominant circulating lineage over the coming months,” the UN health agency said in its weekly epidemiological update.
There are now more than 190 million confirmed cases of COVID, and more than 4 million people have died of it. “At this rate, it is expected that the cumulative number of cases reported globally could exceed 200 million in the next three weeks,” said the update.
The other three “variants of concern” are also spreading. The alpha variant, first detected in the U.K., is now in 180 countries, up from 172 last week; the beta variant, first detected in South Africa, is now in 130 countries, up from 123 last week; and the gamma variant that was first found in Brazil is present in 78 countries, up from 75 last week.
Over the past week, Indonesia reported the highest number of new Covid-19 cases, followed by Britain, Brazil, India, and the US. Despite a worrying rise in coronavirus cases per capita, the UK has removed virtually all restrictions, prompting experts to warn the country about the impending threat.