By Michael Jarvis, London UK
COVID-19 cases are rising across the United Kingdom, the United States, the European Union, and elsewhere including several Caribbean countries.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) is warning of a new global wave on the back of the rapid spread of the Delta variant which first emerged in India.
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said they expect the Delta variant to be the dominant strain circulating worldwide - if it isn't already.
It is now responsible for the current rise in cases in the UK and the US while a new Beta variant in France is the cause of a current surge there.
Countries are struggling to find a balance between economic recovery and safeguarding public health as cases rise at the same time, with the UK among a handful relaxing or completely removing lockdown restrictions.
In the United Kingdom, the British government removed practically all of the COVID-19 restrictions in England this week, putting the emphasis on public and corporate responsibility to act safely. But Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have taken a more cautious stance insisting that mask-wearing remains legally required.
At the same time, the restrictions were loosened in the controversially labelled ‘Freedom Day’, COVID cases in the UK were shooting up by over 40 per cent from the previous week.
The government based its decision on the vaccination uptake to date, with around 88 per cent of UK adults getting their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and nearly 68% receiving both doses.
The UK has had one of the highest death tolls globally from COVID-19, but a higher vaccination rate than its European counterparts - although the vaccination rates have recently started increasing in many of the EU countries.
In the United States, unvaccinated people are leading the numbers of hospitalisations and deaths from COVID-19 by an average 97 per cent, leading some officials to term the present situation as ‘a pandemic of the unvaccinated’.
Vaccination campaigns have started to slow in many nations even as the new surge of the virus, driven by the Delta variant threatens to derail the progress made to date.
There's also growing concern over the level of vaccination hesitation by certain groups on cultural, religious, or grounds of misinformation.
A positive note in all this is that while COVID-19 cases are rising, the severity of illness warranting hospital care has decreased compared to the previous waves. This has been credited to the vaccines so far.
Meanwhile, protests - some against the vaccines - but mainly objecting to lockdown measures are gaining traction in some places, including the Caribbean.
In French St Martin this weekend a protest is planned against restrictions being imposed by the local government which the protest organisers say violate their civil rights.
In the Netherlands recently, riots broke out after the Dutch government put emergency measures in place on some cities. It was overruled by a court on the basis that the emergency 'wasn’t serious enough' to warrant curbs on public movement.
The subsequent ‘unlocking’, including holding music events with thousands of people, was followed by a surge in COVID-19 cases forcing the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, to apologise for what he called 'a miscalculation'.
The Tokyo ‘no-crowds’ Olympics due to start this weekend has also been the target of massive protests, especially as several athletes and event staff have tested positive since arriving at the venue.
Japan is also in the grips of another COVID-19 wave. A state of emergency has been declared as cases are soaring again.
Other events with huge crowds such as the recent Euros football championships held in London and other EU capitals are regarded by many health experts as potential COVID-19 super-spreaders.
The global situation is further complicated with conflicting national policies on managing the crisis, including immigration and travel, public gatherings, opening up businesses and government offices, and mask-wearing.
This is now causing growing political and social tensions both at home and between countries.
It has also led to an increase in calls for an urgent summit of world leaders - to be held remotely dedicated solely to coordinating current and future policy for dealing with the pandemic.