Delta variant to become dominant strain of covid in coming months: WHO

News Network
July 1, 2021

The World Health Organization has said the Delta variant of Covid-19 is now present in nearly 100 countries as per conservative estimates, and warned that in the coming months the highly transmissible strain will become the dominant variant of the coronavirus globally.

In its Covid-19 Weekly Epidemiological Update, the WHO said as of June 29, 2021, "96 countries have reported cases of the Delta variant, though this is likely an underestimate as sequencing capacities needed to identify variants are limited. A number of these countries are attributing surges in infections and hospitalisations to this variant."

Given the increase in transmissibility, the WHO warned that the Delta variant is "expected to rapidly outcompete other variants and become the dominant variant over the coming months."

The world body noted that the tools that exist today to combat the coronavirus — individual, community level-public health and social measures, infection prevention and control measures that have been used since the beginning of the pandemic — remain effective against current variants of concern (VOCs), including the Delta variant.

"Although the increased transmissibility of VOCs (Variants of Concern) means that measures may need to be maintained for longer periods of time, particularly in a context of low vaccination coverage, these measures must be targeted, time-bound, reinforced and supported by member states," it added.

Last week, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the Delta variant is the “most transmissible” of the variants identified so far and is spreading rapidly among unvaccinated populations.

"I know that globally there is currently a lot of concern about the Delta variant, and WHO is concerned about it too. Delta is the most transmissible of the variants identified so far... spreading rapidly among unvaccinated populations," Ghebreyesus had said.

He had noted that as some countries eased public health and social restrictions, there was a corresponding increase in transmission around the world.

As per latest figures, cases of the Alpha variant have been reported in 172 countries, territories or areas, Beta in 120 countries (one new country), Gamma in 72 countries (one new country) and Delta in 96 countries (11 new countries).

For the first time in several weeks, the highest numbers of new Covid-19 cases were not reported from India.

The update noted that at 521,298, the highest numbers of new cases were reported from Brazil during the June 21-27 week, followed by India (351,218 new cases, a 12 per cent increase over the previous week), Colombia (204,132 new cases, 5 per cent increase), Russia (134,465 new cases, 24 per cent increase) and Argentina (131,824 new cases, 11 per cent decrease).

The South-East Asia Region reported over 573,000 new cases and over 13,000 new deaths, a 5 per cent and a 33 per cent decrease respectively compared to the previous week.

"There is a slight overall decrease in the number of cases reported this week, mostly due to the decrease in the number of cases reported in India," the update said, adding that a number of countries, including Myanmar (112 per cent increase), Indonesia (60 per cent increase) and Bangladesh (48 per cent increase), reported large increases in the number of newly reported cases for this week.

In the region, the highest numbers of new cases were reported from India (351,218 new cases; 25.5 new cases per 100,000; a 21 per cent decrease), Indonesia (125,395 new cases; 45.8 new cases per 100,000; a 60 per cent increase), and Bangladesh (36,738 new cases; 22.3 new cases per 100,000; a 48 per cent increase).

The highest numbers of new deaths were reported from India (9038 new deaths; 0.7 new deaths per 100,000; a 45 per cent decrease over the previous week), Indonesia (2476 new deaths; 0.9 new deaths per 100,000; a 39 per cent increase), and Bangladesh (624 new deaths; 0.4 new deaths per 100,000; a 45 per cent increase).

"Well into the second year of the Covid-19 pandemic, the global situation remains highly fragile. While at the global level, trends in cases and deaths have been declining in recent weeks, there is significant variation by region, by country and within countries,” the update said.

It said in all WHO regions, there are countries reporting sharp increases in cases and hospitalisations.

There are a number of factors contributing to this, including the emergence and circulation of more transmissible variants of SARS-CoV-2, increased social mixing and mobility, uneven and inequitable vaccination; and considerable pressure to lift public health and social measures, the WHO said.

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News Network
October 17,2021

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An elderly woman could be seen running from one person to another screaming through the rain swept roads in this high range hamlet, located at the foothills of Western Ghats mountain ranges, on Sunday morning. "I have lost everything...everything in my life...where should I go?...who will give me a shelter?" the woman, clad in a tattered saree, asked aloud crying and running here and there.

The unexpected torrential rain, which pounded the village on Saturday, washed away every penny of her life time earnings and made her homeless all of a sudden. 

At least 15 people have been killed in Kerala as heavy rain triggered landslides in Idukki and Kottayam districts. Lord Ayyappa devotees have been asked to avoid visiting Sabarimala Temple today and tomorrow. The rescue ops are underway.

"I begged our Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan sir to give me two cents of land to construct a 'koora' (hut). I have nowhere to go. My daughters' houses are also submerged. Now I am going to the church to see whether I will get a place there," she told the journalists gathered at the place.

It was the story of many hapless families in Koottickal, located in Kottayam district of Kerala which suffered severe destruction and human casualty due to a series of landslips triggered by heavy rains yesterday.

When the extreme rains showed a slight dip this morning, a large number of people in this village could be seen as displaced and became the inmates of the rehabilitation campus. Many elderly villagers said it was for the first time in their decades-old life that they were seeing and experiencing such severe rainfall. A local shop owner here pointed to his new car, which can be seen as destroyed and partially hanging with its back wheels stuck on a broken wall in his house compound.

"It was my new car parked in front of the house. I was not at home when the flood water suddenly gushed inside the house compound Saturday afternoon. My wife and children somehow managed to run to the neighbour's house," the middle-aged man said. He turned a bit emotional showing the 'mundu' (dhoti) which he was wearing, saying that it was borrowed from the neighbour. Only life was saved and everything else was lost, he said adding that not even in the 2018 floods had he faced such a terrible situation.

The situation was not different in Kokkayar, a hilly hamlet in Idukki district as well, which also witnessed a series of landslips and human casualties on Saturday in incessant rains. A shocked Rajamma, a woman villager, was yet to believe that a four-member family including children, who were seen engaged in some construction activities near her home on the foothills of the hill, swept away by floodwaters in front of her eyes.

The elderly woman said she advised the family to move away from the place when water was seen coming down from the hilltops on a small scale. "But, they continued their work. Suddenly a portion of the hill, where they were standing, caved in... huge boulders started rolling down accompanied by a massive flood of water... I do not remember anything else," the teary-eyed woman said.

George, a middle-aged man engaged in rescue operations, said it was everything fine and calm in the village till 11 PM on Saturday. "But, the situation worsened after that. Around 10 big bridges and the same number of wooden bridges were washed away and the village became isolated soon," he added.

The Army, NDRF, police and the Fire Force along with the locals began rescue operations on Sunday morning at Koottickal and Kokkayar panchayats where over a dozen people are listed to be missing due to numerous landslides accompanied by heavy downpour since Saturday.

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News Network
October 18,2021

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Thiruvananthapuram, Oct 18: As the death toll in Kerala floods and heavy rainfall reached 35, the Congress-led opposition on Monday accused the Pinarayi Vijayan government of not acting on time. However, the government quickly denied the charges.

Leader of Opposition V.D. Satheesan, who on Sunday visited the worst-affected areas in Idukki and Kottayam districts, raised questions as to why, despite the IMD warning, the state government failed to act.

"Wish to know why and what happened and it has now proved that the State government failed to act on warnings. We are told it took several hours for the team of government officials to reach certain spots with men and material to do the rescue act. Something has gone wrong and we want answers," said Satheesan.

State Revenue Minister K. Rajan, however, said there has been no wrong on the part of the State government.

"We rely on the reports and act on the basis of the Centre and we have done just that. Strict action will be taken against those who misuse social media when the state is passing through tough times," said Rajan.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is chairing a meeting to discuss the floods and the strategy to be adopted to open dams in the state which are full. The one decision that was taken is that dam shutters will only be opened during the daytime.

On Wednesday, when the Assembly session resumes, the opposition is going to raise the issue in the House.

Meanwhile, around 4,000 people are now lodged at various camps that have been opened in Idukki, Kottayam, Pathanamthitta and Alappuzha districts of the state.

The latest weather forecast, which has now come out predicts heavy rains to lash the state starting Wednesday.

It all started with the century's biggest floods in 2018 and since then every year, Kerala has seen heavy rains and flash floods.

This time the worst-affected have been the Kottayam and Idukki districts and though the rains have slowed down since Saturday evening and on Monday morning, authorities have issued an alert in eight of the 14 districts of the state.

However, on Monday in Pathanamthitta district in Central Kerala, things appear not very encouraging.

Meanwhile, social media has also termed the recurring natural disasters as nothing but man-made and numerous trolls have highlighted the statement of noted environmentalist Madhav Gadgil, who headed the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel and in 2013 warned that if Kerala does not stop tampering with the Western Ghats, a huge disaster would be round the corner. 

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News Network
October 22,2021

Mexico City, Oct 22: Two foreigners, including one from India, were killed and three wounded in a shooting at a restaurant in the Mexican Caribbean resort town of Tulum, authorities said on Thursday.

Authorities said one of the dead women was from Germany and the other from India. The three wounded included two Germans and a tourist from the Netherlands.

The shooting broke out on Wednesday night at a street-side eatery that has some outdoor tables, right off Tulum's main strip.

The fight was between two groups that operate street-level drug sales in the area, the Quintana Roo state prosecutor's office said in a statement. The tourists were apparently dining at the restaurant and may have been caught in the crossfire.

One woman died at the scene and the other in a hospital. One of the aggressors, who was also wounded, was subsequently arrested. There was no immediate word on the condition of the wounded tourists.

Tulum has experienced growing pains moving from laid-back beach retreat to major international destination. It had long been spared the violence seen sporadically in larger Cancun and Playa del Carmen farther up the coast.

But in June, two men were shot to death on the beach in Tulum and a third was wounded.

The administration of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has pinned its hopes on Tulum, where it has announced plans to build an international airport and a stop for the Maya train, which will run in a loop around the Yucatan peninsula.

But Quintana Roo state, where beach resorts like Tulum, Playa del Carmen and Cancun are located, has been plagued by both violence and corruption.

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