The rapid spread of the delta coronavirus variant has forced a growing number of countries to reimpose lockdowns and other public health restrictions, raising fears that the more contagious variant was hampering global efforts to contain the pandemic.
South Africa on Sunday extended a nightly curfew and introduced a ban on gatherings, alcohol sales, indoor dining and some domestic travel for 14 days to halt a worrying surge in cases driven by the delta variant, President Cyril Ramaphosa said. In Bangladesh, the government pointed to a “dangerous and alarming” rise in delta-related infections and halted all public transportation starting Monday, prompting thousands of migrant workers to flee the capital, Dhaka, before the restrictions took hold.
Thai authorities declared a month-long limited lockdown in the capital, Bangkok, and neighboring provinces, amid a spike in new cases attributed to the delta variant. And Malaysia extended a nationwide shutdown that was scheduled to be relaxed Monday.
In Taiwan, which reported its first delta case on Saturday, the local Centers for Disease Control announced new restrictions for people arriving from seven “high-risk countries”: Bangladesh, Britain, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Israel and Peru.
Hong Kong also said Monday that it was banning all passenger flights from Britain beginning later this week, because of the growing number of new coronavirus cases and “widespread delta variant virus strain there,” according to a government statement.
Health experts have warned that the delta variant — which was first identified in India — is on track to become the most dominant version of the coronavirus worldwide. The World Health Organization said last week that it has been detected in at least 92 countries.
Israel has one of the world’s highest vaccination rates but has also seen delta cases jump in recent weeks, causing authorities to reinstate an indoor mask mandate that was dropped just two weeks ago.
Israeli officials on Sunday night, however, ruled against reviving more stringent coronavirus measures. Instead, the government is relying on the country’s high vaccination rate to protect residents from virus-related hospitalizations and deaths.
Ahead of England’s plan to ease remaining coronavirus restrictions on July 19, the delta variant has continued to spread, and is now responsible for more than 90 percent of new infections in Britain. Concerns about the variant have prompted U.K. authorities to shorten the time between vaccine doses for those over 40.
This report has been updated.
Katerina Ang in Singapore and Karla Adam in London contributed to this report.
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