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The U.S. is in a far better place this summer than many other countries witnessing new COVID cases. But the delta variant of the virus — now expected to become the dominant strain in the U.S. — is posing serious dangers in areas with low vaccination rates. Its spread in many countries worldwide is triggering shutdowns and fears of more deaths. William Brangham reports.
The U.S. is in a far better place this summer than many other countries witnessing new COVID cases.
But the Delta variant of COVID, now expected to become the dominant strain in the U.S., is posing serious dangers in areas with low vaccination rates. It has spread in many countries worldwide. And that is triggering shutdowns and fears of more deaths.
William Brangham begins our coverage with this report.
Across the world, a wave of new lockdowns are being implemented, as nations scramble to get ahead of the coronavirus strain known as the Delta variant.
The risk is real, and we need to act quickly.
The fear spans entire continents. Cities across Australia, a country praised for its initial handling of the pandemic, but now with limited vaccination,are now imposing stay-at-home orders.
As of midnight, Perth and Peel will be entering a four-day lockdown.
In several Asian nations, Indonesia and Malaysia, the variant has threatened to overrun hospitals. Travelers in Hong Kong hustled to get on the last flights to the United Kingdom before a travel ban went into place.
It's killing people by the thousands.
And across Africa, the virus is hitting hard. It's forced South Africa to reinstate bans on alcohol sales, gatherings and indoor dining for the next two weeks.
President Cyril Ramaphosa issued a stark warning:
We are in the grip of a devastating wave that, by all indications, seems like it will be worse than those that have preceded it.
This variant, originally identified in India, is highly contagious, much more so than the original coronavirus. And it's now on track to become the dominant global strain.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it's already been identified in at least 77 countries.
Why should we act like there is no solution, when there is a solution?
The solution is vaccines. Public health officials say most protect against this Delta variant, but only 10 percent of the world's population has been vaccinated. And, in some nations, the rates are far lower. Many countries are desperate for more supply.
Tedros Adhanom Ghesbreyesus:
The problem now is supply problem. Just give us the vaccines.
And given Delta's spread, this week, the World Health Organization recommended masks even for those who are fully vaccinated.
: Transmission, more variants. Less transmission, less variants.
Even the U.S., with nearly half its population vaccinated, and as people ditch masks and pack back into restaurants and arenas, the Delta variant is becoming the dominant source of cases here as well.
Where vaccination rates are low, like in the South and some Western states, this variant is growing. Public health officials now say unvaccinated people account for virtually all hospitalizations and deaths in the U.S.
President Joe Biden:
You are still at risk of getting seriously ill or dying if you, in fact, have not been vaccinated. That's just a fact.
As July 4 approaches, the Biden administration has fallen short on its goal of getting 70 percent of Americans fully vaccinated.
And now it's begun shipping extra doses overseas, trying to halt the spread of this Delta variant before it claims even more lives.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm William Brangham.
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William Brangham is a correspondent and producer for PBS NewsHour in Washington, D.C. He joined the flagship PBS program in 2015, after spending two years with PBS NewsHour Weekend in New York City.
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