December 9, 2023

People wear face masks in Central Park on April 10, 2021 in New York City.

Noam Galai | Getty Images

The World Health Organization on Friday urged fully vaccinated people to continue wearing masks, maintain social distance and practice other safety measures for the Covid-19 pandemic as the highly contagious Delta variant is rapidly spreading around the world.

“People can’t feel safe just because they got the two doses. They still need to protect themselves,” said Dr. Mariangela Simao, WHO Deputy Director General for Access to Medicines and Health Products, during a press conference from the agency’s Geneva headquarters.

“The vaccine alone will not stop community transmission,” added Simao. “People must continue to use masks consistently, stay in ventilated rooms, hand hygiene … the physical distance, avoid crowds. This remains extremely important even if you are vaccinated if there is community transmission. “

The health organization’s comments come as some countries, including the United States, have largely removed masks and pandemic-related restrictions as Covid vaccines have helped reduce the number of new infections and deaths.

According to the Johns Hopkins University, the number of new infections in the USA has remained constant over the past week with an average of 11,659 new infections per day. Nevertheless, the number of new infections has declined sharply in recent months.

WHO officials said they urged fully vaccinated people to continue to “play it safe” as much of the world remains unvaccinated and highly contagious variants like Delta spread in many countries and cause outbreaks.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that about half of the adults infected in a Delta variant outbreak in Israel were fully vaccinated with the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, prompting the local government to restore indoor masking and other measures to introduce.

“Yes, you can reduce some measures and different countries have different recommendations on this. But caution is still required,” said Dr Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser to the WHO Director General, at the briefing. “As we can see, new variants are emerging.”

The WHO said last week that Delta is becoming the predominant variant of the disease worldwide.

WHO officials said the variant, first found in India but now in at least 92 countries, is the fastest and strongest strain of coronavirus to date and will “pick up” the most at risk, especially in places with low Covid vaccination rates .

They said there were reports that the Delta variant also caused more severe symptoms, but that more research was needed to confirm those conclusions. However, there is evidence that the Delta strain may cause different symptoms than other variants.

It has the potential to be “more deadly because it is more efficient in how it is transmitted between people, and it will eventually find those at risk who will become seriously ill, hospitalized and possibly die”, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s emergency health program, said Monday.

In the US, President Joe Biden said the number of Covid deaths would continue to increase nationwide due to the spread of the “dangerous” Delta variant, calling it a “serious concern”.

He warned that Americans who have not yet been vaccinated are particularly at risk.

“More than six hundred thousand Americans have died, and with this variant of the Delta, you know there will be others too. You know it will happen. We need to vaccinate young people,” Biden said Thursday at a community center in Raleigh, North Carolina