The rapid spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus across much of the world is thwarting plans by many countries to lift lockdowns and reopen economies, a major setback to efforts to contain the global Covid-19 pandemic.
The spread of the variant has accentuated a likely feature of a widespread global pandemic: the contrast between the poorest unvaccinated countries where hospitalizations and death rates are increasing and highly vaccinated populations where the link between rising rates is increasing. of cases and serious illness has been largely broken.
Delta, which swept India in May, is estimated to be at least twice as contagious as the original version of the virus. It is now found in 85 countries and is the most common variant in the United States. Only in South America, where another highly contagious version of the virus is prevalent, Delta does not appear to be making a breakthrough.
In parts of Asia, Australia and Europe, governments are reintroducing travel restrictions and delaying the lifting of lockdowns as health officials find restrictive measures that controlled earlier lineages of the virus are not slowing down not Delta.
In the UK, where the variant accounts for 97% of recent cases, and in other places with high vaccination rates, concern is tempered by evidence that injections reduce hospitalizations and deaths. But in largely unvaccinated parts of the world, including some countries in Africa, hospitals are overwhelmed. In Indonesia, the number of cases is the highest since the start of the pandemic.