BEIJING: Mushrooming outbreaks of the Delta variant prompted China and Australia to impose stricter Covid-19 curbs on Saturday, as the WHO urged the world to contain the mutation before it turns into something deadlier.

China’s most serious surge of coronavirus infections in months spread to two more areas on Saturday — Fujian province and the megacity of Chongqing — in an outbreak that now spans 14 provinces.

More than 200 cases have been linked to an original Delta cluster in Nanjing city where nine cleaners at an international airport tested positive.

“The main strain circulating at present is the Delta variant... which poses an even greater challenge to virus prevention and control work,” said Mi Feng, spokesman for China’s National Health Commission.

The nation where the disease first emerged has rushed to prevent the highly transmissible strain from taking root by putting more than one million people under lockdown and reinstituting mass testing campaigns.

Worldwide, coronavirus infections are once again on the upswing, with the World Health Organisation announcing an 80 per cent average increase over the past four weeks in five of the health agency’s six regions, a jump largely fuelled by the Delta variant.

First detected in India, the strain has now reached 132 countries and territories.

“Delta is a warning: it’s a warning that the virus is evolving but it is also a call to action that we need to move now before more dangerous variants emerge,” the WHO’s emergencies director Michael Ryan told a press conference.

Both high- and low-income countries are struggling to gain the upper hand against Delta, with the vastly unequal sprint for vaccines leaving room for variants to wreak havoc and further evolve.

In Australia, where only about 14 per cent of the population is jabbed, the third-largest city of Brisbane and other parts of Queensland state entered a snap lockdown on Saturday as a cluster of the Delta variant produced six new cases.

“The only way to beat the Delta strain is to move quickly, to be fast and to be strong,” Queensland’s Deputy Premier Steven Miles said while informing millions that they would be under three days of strict stay-at-home orders.

Restrictions are also in place in many other parts of the Asia-Pacific region to combat Delta.

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2021

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