It has been over 1.5 years since COVID-19 cases first emerged. In March 2020, it officially became a 'pandemic', with the World Health Organisation calling it an unprecedented situation. "We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus. This is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus. And we have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled, at the same time," the WHO Director-General had told the media.
Over a year later, the world continues to remain in suspense. While vaccines have emerged and the list of casualties has been altered drastically, not much has changed when it comes to this categorisation. Most nations have seen multiple waves of cases, as mutant strains emerge and inequitable vaccine distribution creates additional concern.
In a conversation with Bloomberg, WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan said that COVID-19 cases are presently rising in five out of six WHO regions. Mortality rates in Africa, she added, had jumped by 30-40% in the last two weeks. But why exactly are cases rising?
Swaminathan cites four reasons, the first and foremost being the rise of the Delta variant of COVID-19. "It's certainly the most transmissible. The most dangerous variant of the virus that we have seen so far. In fact with the original virus, if one infected person could spread it to two or three people, with the Delta variant one infected person can infect eight" she noted.
Despite the ebb and flow of cases, several countries have now relaxed lockdown measures. People - whether out of pandemic fatigue or compulsion - were also loath to follow the precautionary guidelines. In recent days countless individuals had taken to moving about and mixing with other people. Swaminathan contends that these, alongside the slow pace of vaccination are also responsible for the rise in cases.