The Delta variant thrives in the developing world as infections fly by


The Delta coronavirus variant that has become rapidly dominant in much of the world now demands a heavy weight for dozens of developing countries, where vaccination levels are insufficient to prevent a growing number of cases from becoming a wave of deaths .

As the economies in Europe and the United States that have successfully weakened the link between infection and death have begun to reopen, the poorest countries with low vaccination rates are entering in some cases their worst phase of the pandemic.

“The world thinks this epidemic is over,” said Fatima Hassan, founder of the South Health Justice Initiative. “But we don’t always have enough vaccination in the system despite the global realization that the Delta variant is so devastating.”

The Delta variant first identified in India accounts for 95 per cent of cases in South Africa where the genetic code has been sequenced. In South Africa, less than 3 per cent of people are vaccinated at all, where the implementation of the jab has been hampered by supply failures and, more recently, by a wave of political violence.

Ninety-nine percent of the sequenced cases in Indonesia, where only 6 percent of the population is completely vaccinated, are the Delta variant. Both South Africa and Indonesia reported a record number of cases this month. In Indonesia, the total of 54,517 cases registered on July 14 alone was four times the level in January.

The same pattern is evident in much of Africa, which last week recorded a 43 percent drop in Covid-19 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. Five countries – Namibia, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia – accounted for 83 percent of the deaths.

Africa recorded 1m of new cases last month, the shortest time it took to reach that number, bringing total infections across the continent to over 6m.

“The double barrier of vaccine shortages and treatment challenges seriously undermines the effective response to the growing pandemic,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director.

Graph showing that in well-vaccinated countries, the source of Delta in cases is no longer reflected in deaths.  In countries where few have been vaccinated, mortality rates are reaching record highs

He blamed the resurgence of the more transmissible Delta variant and the public fatigue to measures like the mask after more than a year of on-off closure. The Alpha and Beta variants, identified for the first time in the UK and South Africa with respect, have also been widely reported, he said.

In Europe, the United Kingdom and Portugal are among those facing Delta variant infections, but high vaccination rates have mitigated the impact.

In the UK, where more than half of the population has been fully vaccinated, the ratio of house deaths has fallen from around one in 50 during the winter wave to one in 750. Despite daily household rates in the UK more than 40,000 – a figure that before the spread of the vaccines would have led to about 800 deaths a day – the current daily count is about 50.


In contrast, Namibia, with only 1.2 percent of the vaccinated population, records one death for every 22 cases. Namibia’s daily rate of 28 Covid deaths per 1m people is the highest in the world, and well above the maximum levels recorded in the UK and Italy.

Funeral volunteers at work in Bogor, West Java province, Indonesia
Funeral volunteers at work in Bogor, West Java province, Indonesia © Willy Kurniawan / Reuters

Tunisia, where a growing infection is killing people faster than at any time during the pandemic, has the second highest Covid death rate in the world. In Mexico, an estimated 84 percent of cases are Delta infections, a possible warning that the variant could take place in Latin America as well.

Trudie Lang, director of the Global Health Network at the University of Nuffield Department of Medicine at Oxford University, said the Delta variant was an important factor in growth, adding that new mutations will continue to gradually eradicate old ones. .

But it was important not to look at Delta in isolation, she stressed. Decreased adherence to social exclusion measures in poorer countries, where many people have to work to live, played a major role in raising the dead, he said.

“We’re tired because everyone wants to go on vacation and our kids want to go to music festivals,” Lang said of the impact of the locks on richer countries. “But you’re a normal family trying to live together in a favela in Rio.” [de Janeiro] or a market stall in Dhaka then the hard work at the locks is a completely different story ”.

Graph showing that not only cases but hospitalizations and deaths have set a record in the South African province of Gauteng

In South Africa, the situation is particularly acute in the province of Gauteng, where not only cases but hospitalizations and deaths have reached record levels. There are more than 8,000 Covid patients in the province’s hospitals, with more than 100 deaths per day.

Hassan, of the Health Justice Initiative, said vaccine suppliers, who had not fulfilled their contracts in South Africa and some other poor countries, had a great responsibility for what she described as a injurious crisis.

In South Africa, months of closure had contributed to the recent rage on the streets in a wave of sacking and destruction, he said.

“If we had had enough vaccination a few months ago we could have been in a much better situation to mitigate the impact of the Delta variant,” he said. “Vaccine companies are playing God in a pandemic. Where is the world? Why don’t they send us 50m vaccines? We really need it, now. “

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