The WHO has urged fully vaccinated people to continue wearing masks, social distance and practice COVID protocols and safety measures amid the highly contagious delta variant. The health body warns that vaccine alone won’t stop its community transmission.
Dr Mariangela Simao, WHO assistant director-general for access to medicines and health products, said people cannot feel safe just because they had the two doses. “People need to continue to use masks consistently, be in ventilated spaces, hand hygiene, the physical distance, avoid crowding” Simao said. “This still continues to be extremely important, even if you are vaccinated when you have community transmission ongoing.”
This comes in the wake of countries like the United States having done away with masks and pandemic-related restrictions as COVID vaccines have helped drive down the number of new infections and deaths. WHO officials said they are asking fully vaccinated people to continue to play it safe because a large portion of the world remains unvaccinated and highly contagious variants like delta, are spreading in many countries.
According to a Wall Street Journal report, about half of adults infected in an outbreak of the delta variant in Israel were fully vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, prompting the government there to reimpose an indoor mask requirement and other measures.
The delta variant, which was first identified in India and now prevalent in at least 92 countries is more infectious than previous coronavirus strains, is now responsible for approximately 10% of COVID infections in the US, as of June 5 and has caused a new COVID-19 outbreaks in the United Kingdom, Australia and Israel. WHO has described it as the fastest and fittest coronavirus strain yet, and will pick up in the most vulnerable people, especially in places with low COVID vaccination rates.
Dr Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s World Emergencies Programme, at a press briefing said the variant’s spread means people should follow public health measures like mask wearing, frequent sanitizing and social distancing with much more care. He said the delta strain should make the world more cautious, more diligent and more dedicated to following those protocols. Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO technical lead on COVID-19, said while vaccines are incredibly effective at preventing severe disease and death including against the delta variant, the strain is a dangerous variant and large events taking place as the variant spreads will have consequences.