(NEXSTAR)-As the SARS-CoV-2 delta variant spreads globally, officials from the World Health Organization are urging continued public health measures-including wearing masks for vaccinated people.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a media briefing on Friday that the variant was first discovered in India and is the “most contagious” of the COVID variants discovered so far.
“As some countries relax public health and social measures, we are beginning to see increased spread across the world,” Tedros said of the variants currently seen in at least 85 countries. “More cases mean more hospitalizations, which further increases the burden on health workers and the health system, thereby increasing the risk of death.”
Tedros also blamed the increased spread of delta variants Unfair distribution of vaccines in poorer countries, Warned that the same thing happened during the AIDS crisis and the 2009 swine flu pandemic.
Speaking specifically about preventive measures, Dr. Mariângela Simão, WHO’s Assistant Director-General in charge of access to medicines, vaccines and medicines, said at a briefing on Friday that continued health measures are still “very important” even among the vaccinated population. Specifically, Simao said that people should wear masks “consistently”, maintain social distancing, stay in a well-ventilated place, wash their hands and avoid crowds.
“This is still very important, even if you are vaccinated, when you have community transmission, this is generally the case in Latin America,” Simão said. “Now you have a high level of continuous community transmission. So people can’t feel safe just because they have taken two doses. They still need to protect themselves.”
Despite the warning issued by the WHO on Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not yet changed its Guide for vaccinated personsThe latest update on June 17 stated that fully vaccinated Americans can “return to most activities without wearing a mask or maintaining physical distance, unless required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations , Including local business and workplace guidance.”
At the same time, at the WHO briefing on Friday, Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s head of COVID-19 technology, pointed out that the increase in cases of delta variants in Europe is an example of the “fragile” state of the world’s current health.
Van Kerkhove said that “there have been many incidents” leading to a surge in the number of people in some European countries, noting that sporting events, religious events and even “backyard barbecues” are some of the catalysts.
Van Kerkhove further urged the public to “cheer up” to reduce the transmission rate.
“The delta variants of the virus will continue to evolve. Now our public health and social measures are effective, our vaccines are effective, our diagnosis work, our treatment work. But there may be some time this virus will evolve and these countermeasures will not ,”she says.
Van Kerkhove added that the delta variant is just one of four COVID variants that deserve attention, and there are seven other variants of interest and “many other alerts” about the mutations that WHO is tracking.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.