Indonesia recently converted nearly its entire oxygen production to medical use just to meet the demand from COVID-19 patients struggling to breathe. In nearby Malaysia, overflowing hospitals forced patients sitting in chairs to share oxygen.
And in India in May, bodies burned in open-air pyres during the peak of the pandemic. But in the last several weeks, Southeast Asia has surpassed India’s peak per-capita death rate as a new coronavirus wave, fueled by the virulent delta variant, tightens its grip on the region.
And Canada’s chief public health officer said Friday that the country could face a fourth COVID-19 wave, also driven by the delta variant, by the end of summer, if restrictions are eased too quickly and before enough people have been vaccinated. In the United States, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, warned Sunday that more “pain and suffering” is on the horizon as COVID-19 cases climb again and officials plead with unvaccinated Americans to get their shots.
The variant is boosting cases and deaths globally after a period of decline, and the World Health Organization anticipates it will become dominant within months. The race is on to vaccinate as many people as possible. Countries that succeeded in doing so, like the UK, have seen infections soar in recent weeks — but without the corresponding rise in serious illnesses or deaths.
As part of The World's regular series of conversations with Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, reporter Carolyn Beeler recently moderated a discussion about the delta variant with epidemiologist William Hanage.
This conversation is presented jointly with the Forum at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The AP contributed to this post.