When the novel coronavirus appeared in China in 2019, nobody anticipated that a pandemic would hit the rest of the world. Shielded from Asia, many Western nations ignored the domino effect taking place in the East. SARS-CoV-2 was deemed to be similar to the flu by skeptics.
Now, almost 18 months later, very few people question the severity and scale of the problem, worsened by the fourth wave of Covid-19.
What are infection waves?
Waves of a pandemic usually refer to progression parameters: a rise in infections, a peak, and a decline. Given that such progression parameters look like waves when presented on a graph, health organizations have accepted the term wave. The same term can be used to describe an outbreak as well, as per Health Desk.
Used for the first time to describe two devastating infections – the influenza outbreaks of the 19th century and the “Spanish flu” of the last century – historical waves can help scientists and health practitioners make predictions. To provide an example, it might help experts to predict how Covid-19 would act if mass vaccination helped achieve global herd immunity.
As of August 2021, Covid-19 infections worldwide have been categorized by the World Health Organization (WHO) into three major waves – with a fourth one on the horizon.
What is the fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic?
The fourth wave of the pandemic is primarily driven by the Delta variant of the novel coronavirus and increased social mixing and mobility. As stated by the WHO, the Delta variant is spreading rapidly. In fact, Delta outbreaks have been reported in more than 135 countries, as of August 2021, including countries with high vaccination coverage.
Note that the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 was initially detected in India more than six months ago. It caused a devastating second wave across the world’s second-most populous country (preceded by China), with outbreaks exceeding 400,000 a day, as revealed by the WHO.
Only between 1 June and 14 June of this year, the Delta variant spread from 62 to 80 countries, reports Al Jazeera, forcing many regions to reintroduce travel bans and restrictions.
Here we should explain that the Delta variant is one of the most transmissible variants of the novel coronavirus, which quickly evolves and mutates. The Delta variant is one of the reported four variants of concern registered by the WHO; the others are Alpha, Beta, and Gamma. Interestingly, the Alpha variant (registered in 173 countries, as of 6 July 2021) was documented for the first time in the UK; Beta (present in 122 countries) – in South Africa; Gamma (reported in 74 countries) – in Brazil. Additionally, the WHO has reported four variants of interest: Eta, Iota, Kappa, and Lambda.
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, testing has played a crucial role in keeping track of cases and managing transmission rates.
Which countries have already entered the fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic?
As explained earlier, the Delta variant is the leading cause of the fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. With Delta-driven cases appearing in more than a hundred countries, it’s evident that a fourth wave is on the horizon, and it’s a matter of time before it spreads further afield.
The WHO warns that many countries in the Middle East were already hit by a fourth wave triggered by the Delta variant, including Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Qatar. Many African nations, including Morocco, Libya, Kenya, and Somalia, are battling Delta-driven cases.
Europe is no exception, with France and Germany among the countries that have entered the fourth wave of the pandemic. Other European countries where the prevalence of the Delta variant is increasing are Belgium, Denmark, Malta, Spain, Portugal, and the UK, states CoVariants. Alarmingly, the whole WHO European region, including non-EU countries like Russia, will be Delta dominant by the end of August, warns the WHO.
While experts in the US are divided on whether or not the US is on the cusp of a fourth wave, it’s a fact that Covid-19 cases reported to the WHO are rising again, exceeding 35 million (as of 4 August). Although authorities believe that infections won’t be as deadly as in January 2021, considered the deadliest month for Covid-19 cases in the US, Delta is dominant across the US, reports the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Even giant tech companies like Apple are reconsidering their return-to-the-office strategies, outlines Forbes.
What can be done to curb the fourth wave of Covid-19?
While reports of people contracting Covid-19 after vaccination are rising, experts claim that the best way to curb the fourth wave is to target regions with low vaccination rates. The WHO has targeted having 40% of the population vaccinated by December 2021 and 70% by the middle of 2022.
To achieve that, vaccine equity should be enhanced, particularly across low- and middle-income countries where the socio-economic impacts have been devastating, announces the Global Dashboard for COVID-19 Vaccine Equity.
Furthermore, to protect children and immuno-compromised individuals who cannot get vaccinated, social distancing and individual responsibilities are crucial to protect health systems and populations worldwide.
Because soon the world may face a fifth wave of Covid-19!