Australia is being warned to take swift action to safeguard its population from the highly-infectious Covid-19 Delta variant.
NSW's surging Sydney outbreak has been fuelled by the variant, while the emergence of local cases in the Northern Territory is believed to be the same strain.
Australia's struggling vaccine rollout has come under widespread scrutiny and could prove devastating for the nation as the Delta variant takes grip across the globe.
Epidemiologist Dr Michael Osterholm, head of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told CBS areas with low vaccination rates were at particular risk from the variant.
Discussing US states with large unvaccinated populations, he said such areas are "time bombs waiting to happen".
Vaccine not a panacea against Delta variant
Yet while strongly vaccinated countries have an obvious advantage against the strain, there is concern such a position is wrongly being treated as a panacea to the variant.
The World Health Organisation on Friday warned people who have both Covid-19 jabs not to be lulled into a false sense of security.
“People cannot feel safe just because they had the two doses. They still need to protect themselves,” Dr Mariangela Simao, WHO Assistant Director-General for access to medicines and health products, told reporters.
“Vaccine alone won’t stop community transmission,” Dr Simao added.
Echoing Dr Simao's remarks, former Harvard epidemiologist Dr Eric Feigl-Ding, a prominent online voice in the US during the pandemic, warned widespread mask wearing and improved ventilation was paramount to Australia beating the Delta variant.
"The Delta variant rise will not end well for low vaccinations areas, whether in parts of US, Australia, or other under-vaccinated countries—unless we mask and ventilate," he tweeted over the weekend.
Associate Professor Ben Mullins, an aerosol deposition expert at Curtin University’s School of Public Health, told Yahoo News Australia it was critical Australian residents strictly followed mask mandates as well as ensuring social distancing to reduce the risk of being infected during "fleeting contact" – a mode of transmission becoming increasingly more common with the Delta variant.
On Monday, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced a mask mandate for indoors and outdoors across 11 local government areas in the state's southeast following the emergence of the Delta variant in the community.
She called the mandate "absolutely vital" in preventing the spread of the variant.
Israel battling Delta variant despite high vaccination rate
Israel, often lauded for its impressive vaccine rollout, has been forced to reintroduce a mask mandate after it emerged about half of adults infected with Delta were fully vaccinated.
The other half of cases were in children under 16, prompting health authorities to ramp up vaccinations for children.
Experts have repeatedly warned that while vaccines have shown evidence of reducing transmission of the virus, it is still possible for fully vaccinated people to contract the virus and pass it on.
WHO officials have warned the Delta variant is most transmissible yet, with Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, warning it could prove to be more deadly – particularly in unvaccinated nations.
"[That's] because it’s more efficient in the way it transmits between humans and it will eventually find those vulnerable individuals who will become severely ill, have to be hospitalised and potentially die,” he said.
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