PARIS (AFP) – Nations across the globe hit new pandemic highs and reimposed Covid-19 restrictions on Saturday as the highly contagious Delta variant forced governments to put the brakes on plans to return to normality.
The highly transmissible Delta variant, first detected in India, is sweeping the globe as countries race to inoculate their populations to ward off fresh outbreaks and allow for economies and daily life to recover.
The European Union -- lambasted early on in the pandemic response for a botched vaccine acquisition program -- said on Saturday it has delivered enough shots to cover 70 percent of the bloc’s population.
“By tomorrow, some 500 million doses will have been distributed to all regions of Europe,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.
But according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the proportion of adults aged 18 years or over fully vaccinated in the EU and European Economic Area is still only 44.1 percent.
Supply shortages in South Korea have meant only about 11 percent of the country’s 52 million population is fully vaccinated, according to health authorities.
The nation, held up as a model of how to combat the pandemic, reported 1,378 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, a third straight record high.
From Monday, gatherings of more than two people will be banned after 6:00 pm, schools, bars and clubs will be closed.
In Pakistan, where less than eight percent of the population has been vaccinated, the government said only those who had received jabs would be allowed to fly.
“We could face dangerous consequences if we do not take steps to control the Delta variant,” the National Command and Operation Centre said in a statement.
The country of around 215 million people has largely escaped the worst of the pandemic, with under a million recorded infections and around 23,000 deaths -- although cases are on the rise again.
After an “exponential” rise in cases in recent days, officials in the autonomous northeastern Spanish region of Catalan said they had no choice but to reimpose restrictions.
Russia also announced on Saturday that cases continued to surge and it had a new record number of daily deaths, the fifth since the beginning of the month.
The 752 new deaths bring Russia’s total toll to 142,253. The country also recorded 25,082 new infections, meaning there have been more than 5.7 million cases.
While vaccines have been successful in mitigating the worst effects of infections, concerns have been raised about how well some of them will cope with more virulent strains.
In Indonesia, which is fighting a ferocious wave of infections, more than a dozen fully inoculated frontline health workers have died, according to the country’s medical association.
The rapid spread of the Delta variant across Asia, Africa and Latin America is exposing crucial vaccine supply shortages for some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable populations.