The Delta variant of Covid-19 has now been detected in 124 territories worldwide, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.
It is expected to become the dominant variant globally in the coming months, with the WHO predicting that there could be more than 200 million confirmed cases within a matter of weeks.
Infections are rising, particularly in Europe and the western Pacific region. Some Western countries have started to ease restrictions as death rates have dropped. But those without access to vaccines or with a slower vaccine rollout are facing a deadlier threat.
With more than 1,300 deaths in a day, Indonesia has become Asia’s new Covid epicentre. Hundreds of people have died in self-isolation – possibly because they could not get immediate treatment or were turned away by overwhelmed hospitals.
Wirawan, a firefighter in the capital city of Jakarta, sees the worsening crisis first-hand. He and his team are tasked with picking up bodies from homes before finally delivering them for burial. Before the latest spike in cases, he arranged two or three funerals a day. Now, he gets calls for up to 24 funerals a day.
France passes law that makes special Covid-19 passports, vaccines mandatory
The French parliament on early Monday greenlighted a health bill mandating vaccination for healthcare professionals, and a digital health pass providing proof of being virus-free to enter public places including restaurants, cafes and trains.
“After 60 hours of debate, the majority and the opposition have found the path of unity to fight against the epidemic,” said Health Minister Olivier Veran on Twitter.
The main provisions of the text include compulsory vaccines for health personnel and employees of medico-social sectors, and penalties for non-compliance like non-payment of salary. The earlier draft called for suspension from duty for the unvaccinated professionals.
It also mandates 10-day isolation for COVID-19 positive patients, and imposition of the health pass for all adults to enter cafes, restaurants, even on the outdoor terraces, long-distance public transport, trade fairs, shopping centers from Aug. 30 until Nov. 15 (instead of the earlier approved deadline of Dec. 31).
During the weekend visit to French Polynesia, Macron slammed the anti-vaxxers, questioning their “freedom” to remain unvaccinated while continuing to pose the risk of infecting family and other members of the society. “It is not freedom, it is called irresponsibility, egoism,” he said.
Aspen to start J&J COVID-19 vaccine supplies to South Africa
South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare will supply the first batch of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to the country from July 26, the drugmaker said.
India will miss a target to administer over a half billion COVID-19 vaccine doses by the end of the month as Bharat Biotech – maker of its only approved homegrown shot – struggles to boost output.
South Korea said it has been informed by Moderna of an unspecified production issue involving its COVID-19 vaccine, as the country expands its inoculation campaign for people aged 55-59 amid a fourth wave of infections.
UK ‘not out of woods’, PM says
Boris Johnson has cautioned against claims that the UK may have passed the peak of its third wave of Covid-19, warning that “we’re not out of the woods yet”.
While the drop in daily cases from almost 55,000 on 17 July to fewer than 30,000 on Sunday was “encouraging”, Downing Street said the prime minister believes that the impact of relaxations introduced a week ago could soon start driving numbers back up again.
Meanwhile, the government has refused to rule out the idea of making full Covid vaccination mandatory for students if they want to return to college and university campuses this autumn.
Boris Johnson is said to be “raging” about a low vaccine uptake among young people, according to The Times.
The prime minister proposed making the vaccine compulsory for students in higher and further education during virtual meetings he held at Chequers last week, the newspaper reported.
Education minister Vicky Ford on Monday said ministers had to “consider everything”.
London’s Heathrow Airport urged Britain on Monday to open up travel to vaccinated passengers after its recovery fell behind Europe, pushing its cumulative pandemic losses to $4 billion. Britain could drop quarantine for travellers from France as soon as next week, The Times reported.
Victoria state prepares to slowly ease out of its fifth lockdown
The Andrews government will tighten border controls as the state prepares to slowly ease out of its fifth lockdown and scrap the five-kilometre restriction on movement.
With Victorians in NSW to be locked out for weeks, the public health team is focused on ensuring the thousands of workers who cross the border each day pose minimal risk of spawning another COVID-19 outbreak and further lockdowns.
A second government source confirmed schools and gyms would be reopened, hospitality businesses would be subject to strict density limits, masks would be required inside and outdoors, offices would return to 25 per cent capacity and the limit on travel beyond five kilometres would be scrapped and not replaced by a 25-kilometre restriction as it was last month. Home visits, however, would still be banned.
Public health officials are more concerned than ever about mass gatherings at sporting events after two significant outbreaks at the MCG and AAMI Park, where outdoor transmission is believed to have occurred.
Delta variant carves a deadly path through Southeast Asia
Thailand reported a record number of coronavirus cases on Monday while Malaysia has notched up more than 1 million infections, as the virulent Delta variant carves a deadly path through Southeast Asia – now a global epicentre for the virus.
Malaysia will not extend state of emergency declared in January to curb the spread of COVID-19. Critics accused Prime Minister Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin of using the measure to cling to power amid a slim majority.
Singapore, meanwhile, is looking to allow quarantine-free travel for those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 from September, when 80% of the city-state’s population should be inoculated.
New measures will supersede those that were introduced on 19 July 2021.
Reduction of social gathering group sizes from a maximum of 5 persons to a maximum of 2 persons, with a cap of 2 distinct visitors per household per day. Grandchildren being cared for daily by their grandparents will not be counted towards this cap.
Work-from-home to remain the default at workplaces. Employers who need staff to return to workplaces need to ensure no cross-deployment at various worksites and enforce staggered start times and flexible working hours. Social gatherings at workplaces will not be allowed.
Tunisia is now witnessing the most devastating impact of Covid since the global pandemic took hold.
It’s not known whether most of the new infections are the Delta variant specifically, but case numbers grew after its known arrival here.
Hospitals across the country are completely overwhelmed, with some medics filmed crying over a shortage of oxygen concentrators as they are forced to decide who lives and who dies.
Mexico is facing its third wave of the pandemic. The number of infections has risen to more than 15,000 a day, reaching the peak we saw at the beginning of the year.
Authorities are concerned about the advance of the Delta variant, which in the capital Mexico City already accounts for around 60% of cases.
The government admitted that the spread of this variant in Mexico and the US is the reason they have extended the closure of the land border between the two countries to non-essential travel.
Most of those affected in Mexico are young and unvaccinated people. Only one in four over 18-year-olds in the country are fully vaccinated.
But with 65% of beds available, hospitals do not show for now the collapse seen in the worst moments of the pandemic.
What is the Delta variant?
The first cases were identified in India, but it has been reported in lots of countries around the world
It is a variant of concern, meaning it has undergone some genetic changes that are potentially worrying in terms of transmissibility and vaccine escape
In some countries, including the UK, Delta has become the dominant type of Covid circulating
Experts say vaccines still work well to protect against severe disease caused by this variant