GENEVA: The Delta COVID-19 variant has so far been identified in 111 countries, territories or areas, and is on the way to becoming the dominant strain of the virus worldwide, causing an increase in new infections and deaths, the World Health Organization (WHO) said .
Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Ecuador are among the 15 countries that reported their first cases of the highly infectious variant in the past week, the WHO said in statement issued on Wednesday.
It warned that the Delta strain is likely to spread to more countries and that it is likely to become the dominant form of COVID-19 "in the coming months", Xinhua news agency reported.
According to WHO figures, COVID-19 cases have jumped in the past week worldwide. The statement was released two days after the WHO's Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned of the "devastating outbreaks" caused by the Delta variant, saying that the new strain of the virus was infecting people "at a scorching pace".
Leaders around the world have responded to the new rise in infections in markedly different ways, with countries such as France adopting new restrictions while others easing them.
The UK, for one, still intends to lift all restrictions on July 19.
The overall global COVID-19 caseload has topped 188.2 million, while the deaths have surged to more than 4.05 million and vaccinations soared to over 3.49 billion, according to the Johns Hopkins University.
In its latest update on Thursday morning, the University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed that the current global caseload, death toll and the total number of vaccine doses administered stood at 188,284,090, 4,057,061 and 3,496,851,294, respectively.
The US continues to be the worst-hit country with the world's highest number of cases and deaths at 33,946,217 and 608,104, respectively, according to the CSSE. (IANS)