The World Health Organization said on Friday that world is at risk of losing hard-won gains in fighting COVID-19 as the highly transmissible Delta variant spreads. It also said that WHO-approved vaccines remain effective.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has described the Delta variant of the coronavirus as being as transmissible as chickenpox and cautioned it could cause severe disease, agencies report said.

COVID-19 infections have increased by 80% over the past four weeks in most regions of the world, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. Deaths in Africa – where only 1.5% of the population is vaccinated – rose by 80% over the same period.

“Hard-won gains are in jeopardy or being lost, and health systems in many countries are being overwhelmed,” Tedros told a news conference.

The Delta variant has been detected in 132 countries, becoming the dominant global strain, according to the WHO.

“The vaccines that are currently approved by the WHO all provide significant protection against severe disease and hospitalisation from all the variants, including the Delta variant,” said WHO’s top emergency expert, Mike Ryan.

“We are fighting the same virus but a virus that has become faster and better adapted to transmitting amongst us humans, that’s the change,” he said.

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