The Delta coronavirus variant, which is rapidly dominating most parts of the world, is causing severe losses to dozens of developing countries whose vaccination levels are insufficient to prevent a surge in cases from becoming a wave of death.
As economies in Europe and the United States that have successfully weakened the link between infection and death begin to reopen, poorer countries with low vaccination rates are in some cases entering the most severe phase of the pandemic.
“The world believes that this epidemic is over,” said Fatima Hassan, founder of the South African Health Justice Initiative. “But there is still not enough vaccine supply in our system, even though the world is aware that the Delta variant is so destructive.”
The Delta variant, first discovered in India, accounts for 95% of cases in South Africa where the genetic code has been sequenced. In South Africa, less than 3% of people are fully vaccinated, where vaccination is hampered by insufficient supplies and the recent wave of political violence.
99% of the sequenced cases in Indonesia are Delta variants, and only 6% of the population is fully vaccinated. South Africa and Indonesia both reported record numbers of cases this month. In Indonesia, the total number of cases recorded on July 14 alone was 54,517, four times that of January.
According to data from the World Health Organization, the situation in most parts of Africa is also obvious. Last week, the number of Covid-19 deaths increased by 43% every week. Five countries-Namibia, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia-accounted for 83% of deaths.
In the past month, Africa has recorded 1 million new cases. This is the shortest time taken to increase this number, bringing the total number of infections across the continent to more than 6 million.
Marcidiso Morty, WHO Regional Director, said: “The dual obstacles of vaccine scarcity and treatment challenges have severely undermined the effective response to the surge in epidemics.”
She attributed the surge in the epidemic to the more spreadable Delta variant and public fatigue caused by measures such as wearing masks after more than a year of intermittent lockdown. She said that the Alpha and Beta variants originally found in the United Kingdom and South Africa, respectively, have also been widely detected.
In Europe, countries such as the United Kingdom and Portugal are facing an increase in delta variant infections, but high vaccination rates have weakened this impact.
In the UK, more than half of the population is fully vaccinated, and the ratio of deaths to cases has fallen from about one in 50 during the winter wave to one in 750. Although the daily case rate in the UK exceeds 40,000—a figure that would kill about 800 people a day before the vaccine was introduced—the current daily death toll is about 50.
In contrast, only 1.2% of the population in Namibia has been vaccinated, with 1 death in 22 cases. Namibia’s 28 deaths per 1 million people per day from COVID-19 are the highest in the world, well above the peak levels recorded in the United Kingdom and Italy.
The surge in infections in Tunisia is killing people faster than at any time during the pandemic, and its death rate from the new coronavirus ranks second in the world. In Mexico, an estimated 84% of cases are delta infections, which may be a warning that this variant may also be endemic in Latin America.
Trudy Lang, director of the Global Health Network at the Nuffield School of Medicine at the University of Oxford, said that the Delta variant is an important factor in this craze, adding that new mutations will continue to gradually drive out old ones.
But she emphasized that it is important not to look at Delta in isolation. She said that in poorer countries where many people have to work to live, people’s compliance with social distancing measures has fallen, playing an important role in rising deaths.
“We are tired because everyone wants to go on vacation, and our children also want to go to music festivals,” Lang said of the impact of the lockdown on rich countries. “But if you are an ordinary family, trying to barely make a living in the slums of Rio [de Janeiro] Or the market stalls in Dhaka, and then fatigue due to the blockade is a completely different story. “
In South Africa, the situation in Gauteng is particularly serious. Not only the number of cases, but also the number of hospitalizations and deaths have reached record levels. There are more than 8,000 new coronary pneumonia patients in hospitals in the province, and more than 100 people die every day.
Hassan of the Health Justice Initiative said that vaccine suppliers have not fulfilled their contracts with South Africa and some other poor countries and bear great responsibility for what she described as a global crisis.
In South Africa, months of blockade have intensified the recent anger on the streets Looting and destruction, she says.
“If we had enough vaccine supply a few months ago, we could have better mitigated the effects of the Delta variant,” she said. “Vaccine companies can play God’s role in a pandemic. Where is the world? Why don’t they send us 50 million vaccines? We really need it now.”