Washington: Governments around the world on Thursday raced to head off a surge in coronavirus cases driven by the Delta variant, with US President Joe Biden offering new incentives to vaccine holdouts and Israel authorizing booster shots.
The World Health Organization warned that a highly contagious strain of the virus was first discovered in India and could cause a “fourth wave” of cases in its eastern Mediterranean region-from Morocco to Pakistan.
These countries are particularly at risk because of the low vaccination rate-only 5.5% of the population in the region have been fully vaccinated. Therefore, in countries where vaccines are more readily available, government officials are ringing alarm bells.
“People are dying — and will die — who don t have to die,” Biden said in a speech on his administration s new initiatives aimed at curbing the spread. “If you re out there and unvaccinated, you don t have to die.”
He said that all federal government workers will be required to disclose their vaccinations-those who have not been vaccinated will have to wear masks and undergo Covid-19 tests in the workplace.
The Democratic president also stated that he will ask the Pentagon to consider mandating active duty military personnel to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, and that state and local governments provide $100 for vaccinated adherents.
“If incentives help us beat this virus, I believe we should use them. We all benefit if we can get more people vaccinated,” Biden said.
In Israel, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced that those over the age of 60 would be offered a third dose of vaccine — a booster shot available from Sunday.
“I call on all elderly people who have already been vaccinated to receive this additional dose,” Bennett said. “Protect yourselves.”
“The decision was based on considerable research and analysis, as well as the rise in risk of the Delta variant wave,” Bennett said.
Israel quickly launched a vaccination campaign and lifted many restrictions on public gatherings in June. However, the number of infected people increased sharply, and closed public places once again made it mandatory to wear masks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also urges people living in Covid hot spots—even those who have been vaccinated—to wear masks indoors.
The surge in cases across the United States has made early vaccine adopters angry at those who have chosen to oppose the vaccine so far.
“It’s almost like they don’t care about the rest of the world. They are selfish and self-centered,” Alicia Reid, a 58-year-old health care administrator in Washington, told AFP.