A nearly empty Times Square is show during the outbreak of coronavirus in New York City, the US, in this March 19 2020 file photo. Picture: REUTERS/LUCAS JACKSON
A nearly empty Times Square is show during the outbreak of coronavirus in New York City, the US, in this March 19 2020 file photo. Picture: REUTERS/LUCAS JACKSON

The Delta coronavirus variant is raining on our parade. Just when many people want to celebrate a return to normalcy, confident of vaccine protection, the Delta variant is bringing back the dark clouds of last year.

In the US, face masks and social distancing are being recommended anew, while worldwide lockdowns and travel bans are back in the fight against this highly transmissible variant, a particular threat to the unvaccinated and a reminder that Covid-19 will be a long haul.

The good news is that vaccines, the most important measure to fight the virus, are holding the line for those who have received them. Research suggests Delta is 40%-60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant first identified in the UK, which was 50% more transmissible than the original virus.

Those without vaccines are in serious jeopardy. Hospital admissions for Covid-19 around the US are largely made up of the unvaccinated. “This is a pandemic of unvaccinated people,” Los Angeles County public health director Barbara Ferrer said last week.

Yet even those who have received a full vaccine dose are more and more often hearing advice to resume taking precautions. On Monday Los Angeles county recommended that everyone wear masks in public indoor spaces, even though more than 54% of California’s population over age 12 is fully vaccinated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has previously said the fully vaccinated can do without masks, but on Friday the World Health Organisation urged fully vaccinated people to continue to wear masks, social distance and practice other mitigations. These shifts back to earlier measures ought not provoke fury and resistance. As the virus changes, so will measures to fight it.

In the face of a surge of Delta cases, doubling every few days, Israel reinstated its mask mandate 10 days after lifting it. Cities in Australia — including Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne — are again under lockdown because of Delta. And cases are again rocketing in Russia, which has a low vaccination uptake.

What Delta means is that the battle against the coronavirus will be ongoing for some time, possibly years. We have to be flexible and determined, using all the tools available. Most obviously, when we have a tool that works and a vaccine, why would we not take full advantage? /Washington, June 30

Washington Post

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